In DepthBiocontrol

In effort to save hemlocks, a rare glimpse of hope

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Science  17 Jan 2020:
Vol. 367, Issue 6475, pp. 238
DOI: 10.1126/science.367.6475.238

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Summary

Since the 1980s, eastern hemlock trees—sometimes called the redwoods of the east—in the United States and southern Canada have come under an ever-widening assault from the hemlock woolly adelgid, a tiny insect native to Japan that sucks sugars from hemlock needles, killing trees. The adelgid has left ghost forests throughout the Appalachian Mountains and much of New England. But now, a tiny predatory beetle that researchers have been rearing and releasing into forests appears to be doing damage to the adelgid, a 5-year study has found. The result marks a rare success for forest scientists aiming to use introduced insects to battle pests, a strategy called biocontrol. Researchers caution that hemlocks are far from safe, because it is unlikely the beetle alone can defeat the pest. But the news "gives some cause for encouragement," says Aaron Ellison, an ecologist at the Harvard Forest.

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