Exotic Insect Found Infesting Hemlock Trees in Ottawa County (MDARD Press Release)

Confirmed in three locations in Park Township
For immediate Release: August 13, 2015
Media contact: Jennifer Holton, 517-284-5724
Program contact: 800-292-3939

LANSING – Today, Ottawa County residents have an alert arborist to thank for the discovery of hemlock woolly adelgid, which triggered response efforts by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to help protect the state’s hemlock trees and other natural resources.

The infestation was discovered in June by an alert arborist working in Park Township who reported his suspicion to MDARD. Samples were sent to a United States Department of Agriculture insect identifier who confirmed the insect as HWA.  MDARD immediately initiated a survey of hemlock trees within a mile of the positive site and during that survey two more positive locations were discovered. Impacted property owners have been notified and the known infested trees are being treated. MDARD is currently working with its state and federal partners on a comprehensive response plan.

HWA is a small, aphid-like insect that uses its long siphoning mouthparts to extract sap from hemlock trees.  Native to eastern Asia, HWA was discovered in Virginia in 1951 and has since spread over an area from Georgia to Maine, decimating hemlock stands across much of the eastern U.S. HWA will cause widespread tree mortality and move to other areas if left untreated.

“Michigan is home to more than 100 million hemlock trees which provide valuable habitat for various animals including birds, deer and fish. These trees are critical to the ecology and aesthetics of Michigan’s northern forests,” said Gina Alessandri, MDARD’s Pesticide and Plant Pest Management Division Director. “This discovery underscores the importance of citizen involvement in exotic pest detection.  Without the report from an alert individual, it may have gone unnoticed for months, or even years, making management of this devastating pest much more difficult.”

The area of concern is described as all portions of Park Township in Ottawa County north of Lake Macatawa. It’s bounded by New Holland Street to the north, Division Avenue/144th Avenue to the east, Lake Macatawa to the south and Lake Michigan to the west. People who live, work and play in the area of concern should be aware that HWA can be very difficult to detect at low population levels because the insect is so small.  The movement of hemlock materials (trees, branches and twigs) could spread HWA.  At this time, hemlock materials should not be removed from properties within the area of concern.  It’s recommended no hemlock trees be brought into the area of concern as they run the risk of becoming infested. Also, because birds move HWA, people in the area of concern should remove any bird feeders from hemlock trees.

The origin of these infestations is not known. Work is being conducted by MDARD in an effort to identify the source of the infestation. So far, no clear source has been found, but a likely source is hemlock nursery stock moved into Michigan from infested areas outside of the state either prior to MDARD’s Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Quarantine implemented in 2002, or in violation of the quarantine. There are no known established populations of HWA anywhere else in Michigan.

“Nursery operators, landscapers and homeowners should never accept hemlock from quarantined areas, and never accept hemlock without proper certification,” said Alessandri. “Examine your hemlock for the presence of white, cottony masses on the underside of the branches where the needles attach.  If you suspect HWA, contact MDARD immediately.”

Michigan law restricts the movement of hemlock into the state, and includes a complete ban of movement of hemlock into the state from infested areas.

See a map showing the “area of concern” here.

Read MDARD’s “Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Quarantine” here.

To report a possible HWA detection, contact MDARD at 800- 292-3939 or MDA-info@michigan.gov.

Additional information on HWA, including pictures, and other invasive and exotic species threatening Michigan can be found at www.michigan.gov/exoticpests.

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Wild Edibles Hike a Success

wild_edibles_2On July 18th, 30 residents of Barry County, led by District Forester Shawn Kelly, enjoyed a beautiful day hiking while learning about the various edible plants found in Michigan. Throughout the 1.5 mile hike at Pierce Cedar Creek participants stopped to explain how to safely identify and prepare several species of tasty plants. Participants enjoyed a taste in the field of a variety of fruit, roots, tubers and seeds and learned how ethnobotany has shaped the foods medicines and tinctures we use today.

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Antler collection to benefit Youth Day 2015

Preparations are well underway for the second annual Youth Day, a free event in early September to introduce children to a wide variety of outdoor activities. In order to make this event possible, friends of the event are looking into some pretty creative fundraising ideas. George Cullers, a local trapper, is leading an ongoing antler collection to help raise funds to support this free day of fun and activity.

Cullers got idea from a group in Oregon that generated over $7,000 by collecting antlers. He is working with a buyer out of Ionia County and hopes that the fundraising will be fruitful, given that Barry County has such a wonderful wealth of avid hunters and outdoorsmen.

If you have antlers you would like to donate or a group that would like to collect donations around the county, you can contact George at (269) 945-9218. Donations can also be dropped off at Al & Pete’s Sport Shop, 111 S. Jefferson in Hastings, (269)-945-4417, M-Th: 10-5:30 Fri: 10-8 Sat: 9-5:30. For more information about Youth Day and how you can get involved, contact the Barry Conservation District at (269) 948-8037 x117.


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Oak wilt confirmed in southwest Michigan

Late last month District Forester Shawn Kelly reported two pockets of Oak wilt that were identified along the dunes in Grand Haven, MI.

“Oak wilt is a serious disease affecting Michigan’s oak resource. Oaks (especially red oaks) usually die within weeks of becoming infected,” said Shawn Kelly, District Forester for Barry, Ottawa, and Allegan Counties.

oak wilt

A fungal spore mat on one of the trees identified by Shawn as infected in Grand Haven

The fungus Ceratocystis fagacearum causes the disease by invading the vascular system of the tree. Symptoms of oak wilt start with a subtle off-coloring of the leaves. Shortly after, the leaves will begin to wilt from the top down. As the disease progresses, the leaves will turn a bronze color and eventually are cast from the tree. Trees are commonly entirely defoliated within a few weeks of symptom onset. In members of the red oak family, wilting is followed by rapid death of trees whereas in white oaks, death is usually limited to one or more branches of the tree. The red oak family in Michigan includes red, black, scarlet and pin oaks and the white oak family includes white, swamp white and bur oaks.

Oak wilt moves from tree to tree in two ways: underground via interconnected roots or overland by certain insects. Underground spread of the fungus can occur between oaks up to 100 feet away. The main insect that spreads the fungus, picnic beetles, are attracted to the fresh sap flow from a freshly cut tree and are thought to travel up to five miles in search for newly wounded tree.

To prevent the spread of this disease, it is especially important for landowners to not prune their oak trees from April to July 15th, when the picnic beetles are most active, to avoid attracting the beetles carrying the fungus from infected trees.

Oak wilt is difficult to diagnose in the field and is often times confused with other common oak disorders such as Anthracnose, oak decline, and two-lined chestnut borer. It is best to have your oaks diagnosed by a forestry professional or certified arborist that is trained in oak wilt management. If you suspect oak wilt on your property or in your community, contact Shawn Kelly at the Barry Conservation District (269-948-8037 x114 or shawn.kelly@macd.org) to request a diagnosis.

The Barry Conservation District is your local resource for natural resource management, helping people conserve, maintain and improve our natural resources and environment for future generations in Barry County

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Spruce Needlecast a Growing Concern in Southwest Michigan

The weather is warming up and Barry County residents continue to delight in the beautiful buds, fragrant flowers, and lush leaves that spring brings to our forests. That extra time spent outdoors admiring nature may also lead you to discover some worrisome changes in your trees. If you notice your spruce trees exhibiting purple or brown needles, your trees may be infected with Rhizosphaera Needlecast, a fungus that affects many varieties of spruce.


USDA Forest Service- A tree infected with Needlecast. Notice the most severe discoloration and loss of needles at the base and near the trunk of the tree.

The fungus is spread by water and is most commonly noticed in spring, although it is present -year-round and can become active at any time. It begins affecting the lowest and innermost needles first and eventually spreads to the rest of the tree if left untreated. The fungus is also identifiable by tiny dark specks on the infected needles. Normal needle die-off and some environmental problems can be confused with Needlecast, so it is important to contact a professional, such as Barry Conservation District Forester Shawn Kelly.

There is no way to cure old growth that is already infected by the fungus. However, you can protect new growth by applying a fungicide containing chlorothalonil to half-grown (about 1-1½ inch) needles and then reapplying the fungicide after 3-4 weeks. Follow the fungicide instructions carefully. Even with regular fungicide applications and pruning, it could take two or more years to control the fungus. In cases of severe infection in an area with many spruce close together, it might be more effective to remove infected trees.


USDA Forest Service- The needles closest to the branch are infected before the outermost needles.

There are many other ways to prevent future fungal infection. Selecting more resistant varieties like Norway spruce over susceptible varieties like Colorado blue spruce can help. Inspect any new trees before buying in order to avoid infected trees. Space trees properly to allow air flow and prune trees only when dry to help prevent the spread of fungus. After pruning infected trees, soak tools in denatured alcohol for a few minutes to sterilize them.

If you suspect that your trees might be infected with Needlecast or another disease or pest, please contact the Barry Conservation District (269-948-8056 x114), as early detection is the key to effective management of these problems.

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Spring is here!

As April gives bow to May, the signs of spring are in full swing. Our part-time bird residents are beginning to return from warmer climes. Robins are busy searching for early meals on the ground. Morels, the harbinger of spring, are showing their delectable fruit. Maple trees are being tapped for their sweet sap. And once-dormant trees are beginning to wake up from the long winter rest.

This is also the time when spring wildflowers are making an appearance in a woodlot near you. Many of the early flowers are known as “spring ephemerals” because they only photosynthesize for a few brief weeks before the forest leaves bring deep shade to the forest floor. After that, their blossoms quickly wither and disappear. Ephemerals, such as trout lily, dutchman’s breeches, and spring beauty, virtually disappear from view by midsummer, so April and May are the best months to know and appreciate them. Depending on the day, a spring hiker might be treated to the fleeting flashes of color from flowers such as bloodroot, toothwort, trout lilies, blue cohosh, skunk cabbage, hepatica, or common violet. Wildflowers of spring have many stories to tell. From how they were named and what they were used for medicinally to their folklore stories, there is much to discover on a walk in the spring woods.

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On Track to a Greener Michigan at the Barry State Game Area

Consumers Energy, Michigan International Speedway provide trees for local planting

Article_3Thanks to the hard work of local area Boy Scouts, Barry County is now 690 trees richer. The Barry Conservation District teamed up with Boy Scout Troop 210 and other local scouts for a fun day planting white pines at the Barry State Game Area on Sunday, May 3rd.

This was the first official event for Caledonia’s newest Troop 210. The scouts forged invaluable bonds with local conservation leaders, which is in line with the group’s objectives, says Committee Chair Star Santiago. “Our goal is to serve our community, get the boys from various packs working together, treat each other like family, and give the boys every opportunity we can for them grow, learn, and make a difference.” The troop looks forward to growing and happily welcomes new members.

Article_1Barry Conservation District Forester Shawn Kelly led the group and explained the ecological importance of trees as well as the historic and industrial significance of white pines in Michigan. White pines serve as an excellent source of cover and food for deer and other wildlife, so their addition will certainly enhance the wildlife habitat of the game area.

Consumers Energy and Michigan International Speedway are providing 50,000 trees to be planted across Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, part of their joint effort to get On Track to a Greener Michigan.

Article_2“MIS takes great pride in knowing that our green initiatives have made a significant, positive impact to the environment and sport of auto racing, and we continue to do different things to move forward with those initiatives,” said MIS President Roger Curtis. “It’s the right thing to do to protect our environment. Our brand at MIS is very much an environmentally friendly one.”

Michigan International Speedway last year became the largest participant in Consumers Energy’s Green Generation, matching 100 percent of its electricity use with renewable energy. Close to 20,000 homes and businesses in Michigan participate in Green Generation, contributing each month to purchase power from renewable sources, all made in Michigan.

Consumers Energy has adopted sustainability as a company-wide goal, meaning its employees operate with a fundamental commitment to leave their company and state better than they found them. They strive to fulfill the needs and wants of our generation without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same.

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Michigan’s Qualified Forest Program Ends 2014 with Success!

Michigan ranks third in the nation for timber production. The 20 million acres of forest cover in Michigan supports more than 125,000 timber and wood products jobs and generates more than $17 billion to Michigan’s economy each year and is projected to increase in the coming years.  In an effort to fuel regional economies through timber harvesting and individual tax savings, the Michigan Department of Agriculture implemented the Qualified Forest program (QFP) in 2014. Landowners who actively manage their forests for commercial harvest are provided a property tax exemption.  The program provides two potential tax benefits for enrolled landowners. First, a maximum 18 mill reduction of school operating taxes on non-homestead property with the qualified forest school tax affidavit. Second, a qualified forest taxable value affidavit prevents the “uncapping” of a property’s taxable value when a parcel currently enrolled in QFP changes ownership.

In 2014 Michigan enrolled a total of 74,544 acres into the QFP program. That number is up from the previous year, where Michigan enrolled 51,519 acres into the program. These numbers combined with parcels enrolled in previous versions of the program bring the total acres enrolled to 223,167.  With these numbers increasing annually, MIDNR hopes to boost the states forest products industry currently valued at $16 billion annually to $20 billion over the next five years.

To qualify for QFP, parcels must be 20 acres or larger. Parcels 20-39 acres in size must be at least 80 percent stocked with forest capable of producing wood products. Parcels 40-640 acres in size must be 50 percent stocked with forest capable of producing wood products. Additionally, all QFP applications must have a written forest management plan developed by a Qualified Forester. Application instructions as well as a directory of Qualified Foresters can be found on the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development site at www.michigan.gov/qfp.  You can also contact your local conservation district to determine if they can assist you.

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Beech Scale Dicovered in Allegan County. Written by Shawn Kelly District Forester

Allegan County is now the 25th county within the Lower Peninsula to play host to the exotic pest known as Beech Scale, which in conjunction with an exotic fungus, has caused the mortality of millions of American beech trees in Michigan to date. Until recently, Kent County represented the southern most county suffering from this detrimental pest complex. Together, beech scale and the exotic fungus neonectria faginata infest stands of beech leading to the fatal beech bark disease. Wind dispersed beech scale colonize beech trees, taking refuge on rough patches of bark and on branch scars, protecting them from being washed away from rain and wind. As scale populations build on the tree, the tree takes on a whitewashed appearance. As the scale feeds on the tree, they pierce the tissue of the tree leaving an entry point for the nectria fungus to invade. As the fungus moves in it kills the wood, blocking the flow of nutrients up and down the tree. Affected trees decline in health and eventually succumb to the disease within three to six years. It is common for infected trees to break off in heavy winds before dying- a condition commonly referred to as “beech snap”.

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Photos: Beech scale infestation on beech trees.


American beech (Fagus grandifolia) is the only native species of this genus in North America. Representing the extreme northern and western range of the species, Michigan has roughly 32 million beech trees, which provide an important food source for both people and wildlife. It has been reported that the disease is responsible for the loss of 2.5 million beech trees to date, and that number is expected to increase as the disease spreads by about six miles a year.

Currently the MIDNR is focusing on reducing infected trees in beech stands to slow the spread of the disease, by salvage logging high timber value trees. Private landowners should focus on early detection because prompt treatment is the most effective way to protect beech trees in
the landscape. However, even early treatment for beech scale may not prevent trees from becoming infected with the fungus that causes beech bark disease. If certain infested trees cannot be treated, their removal will retard the establishment of new infestations. Because wind and rain can dislodge eggs and crawlers from the tree, washing trees (especially smaller ones) with a strong jet of water periodically from June to November also will reduce infestations of beech scale. For further information on beech scale and beech bark disease contact your local Conservation District or Shawn Kelly, Forester, Barry Conservation District at 269-948-8056 ext. 114

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Volunteers needed in February for stewardship at state parks in southwest Michigan

The Department of Natural Resources recently announced the February schedule of volunteer stewardship activities at state parks and recreation areas in southwest Michigan.

Volunteers are needed to cut invasive, non-native shrubs, like Japanese barberry and honeysuckle, from high-quality forested dunes and prairies. This activity is a great way to enjoy time outdoors in the winter while restoring unique ecosystems and learning more about them.

Workday dates, locations (counties) and times include:

Saturday, Feb. 7:    Yankee Springs Recreation Area (Barry) 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 14:  Muskegon State Park (Muskegon), 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 21:  Ionia State Recreation Area (Ionia), 9 a.m.- 2 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 22:    Saugatuck Dunes State Park (Allegan), 1-4 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 28:  Fort Custer Recreation Area (Kalamazoo), 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

Volunteers should bring work gloves, drinking water and appropriate clothing for outdoor work, including long pants and sturdy, closed-toe shoes. No experience is necessary and all tools will be provided.

For workday details, maps and directions, visit the DNR website at www.michigan.gov/dnrvolunteers and click the link Calendar of Volunteer Stewardship Workdays.

All volunteers are asked to register using the form available on the DNR website or via email. Any questions should be directed to Heidi Frei at 517-202-1360 or freih@michigan.gov

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