Northumberland County Council – Council Learns About a New Invasive Species in Grafton

In City Hall

By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
First, Dutch Elm Disease destroyed so many elm trees, then the Emerald Ash Borer came along to wreak havoc on the ash trees.

At Northumberland County council’s Corporate Support Standing Committee meeting this week, councillors heard about the next threat, from the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid.

Natural Heritage Manager Todd Farrell updated the committee members about the invasive pest that was detected in Grafton in 2022. It had previously been found around Fort Erie and Niagara Falls.

Once infested with the pest, Farrell said, a hemlock tree will die within one to four years.

“It’s on our doorstep now,” he added.

Farrell was hoping the committee would make a recommendation to county council to complete – with locally relevant information – and send a letter to Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry Graydon Smith asking for action on behalf of the Ontario Woodlot Association/Eastern Ontario Model Forest, with copies to be sent to each Northumberland municipality as well as Northumberland-Peterborough South MPP David Piccini.

He likened the pest to an aphid with a proboscis that sucks the juice of the hemlock – though, unlike most invasive species, this one is more active in the fall, winter and early spring.

The “woolly” part of its name comes from the cotton-like appearance of its egg sac at the base of the hemlock needle.

“The top of the tree starts to die, and then it declines. It’s a good indication, those egg sacs, that it is infected.”

The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid has been in the United States for some time, and is originally from overseas. It travels on migratory animals like birds, deer and people, and it can be dispersed through the transfer of wood.

It is being regulated in the Niagara Region, with the removal of wood from affected areas banned and warnings to people not to put their bird feeders in hemlock trees.

In Grafton, it was detected by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and affected trees were cut down, and the area quarantined in that you cannot move materials off the site.

In Northumberland County, Farrell continued, the hemlock is not as common as the ash, though there are small areas of hemlock in the county forest.

“But it does have the potential to be as devastating as what happened to the ash across Ontario,” he warned.

Councillor Mandy Martin provided further information on the species.

“Hemlock is the ultimate in the succession of trees in terms of, over time hemlock is the end,” Martin said.

“In other words, in a mature forest, it will be predominantly hemlock.”

The Northumberland Forest is not now at the stage of having too many 200- and 300-year-old trees, she pointed out.

“But that’s what the hemlock represents, nature making progress.”

Where there’s hemlock, she said, there not only a variety of other trees but ground flora kept to healthy levels due to the shade of the hemlock.

The letter the committee voted to approve agrees that a healthy hemlock population is vital and its loss would be devastating to thousands of Ontario property and business owners.

“Thousands of cottage properties would lose substantial or all tree cover. Twenty-two sawmills in Ontario currently process hemlock and would lose this feedstock,” it stated.

“Hemlock provides unique, critical and above-average habitat to birds, mammals, fish and insects, many of whom depend on hemlock for survival. The tourism industry, including hunters and anglers, could lose out as aesthetics are degraded and habitat for game species such as deer, moose and sport fish is lost.

“The loss of hemlock would fundamentally alter Ontario’s forests. The potential negative impacts cannot be overstated and will be in the many millions of dollars.”

Cecilia Nasmith
Author: Cecilia Nasmith

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