The Lumpkin Coalition, a group of north Georgia community members, has been supporting the Predator Beetle Lab at the University of North Georgia for more than five years. During that time, the lab has been breeding and deploying special beetles to combat an invasive pest—the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA)—that has devastated the Hemlock forests along the eastern United States. The lab's coordinator, Amanda Newton, talks about how the support of the Lumpkin Coalition and the state have helped the lab produce beetles to aid in the effort to save the Eastern Hemlock tree.
What are the predator beetles, and how are they contributing to the preservation of the Eastern Hemlock?
Currently, there are three beetles approved for release by the USDA Forestry Service. Two of the species are from the northwestern United States where they live and feed on the HWA on Western Hemlock trees. The other species, S. tsugae, is from Japan, the native home of the HWA. The goal of releasing these predator beetles is to add a new method of HWA control in an environmentally friendly way.
|The white fuzz similar to cotton is clusters of HWA eggs.|
We raise the beetles in house from egg to adult over the span of six months. We always have a back-stock that we keep in “cold storage” over the summer months to help kick-start the next year’s colony. We also have special incubator units that mimic the humidity, temperature, and light cycle requirements of some of the more challenging species to aid in producing healthy adult beetle colonies.
How have the Lumpkin Coalition and the state of Georgia supported the Predator Beetle Lab?
The Lumpkin Coalition is a great example of how a group of individuals can come together and have a direct, positive influence on the local community. Each year, they are able to put together the Hemlock Fest, a fantastic family event. Over the course of three days, attendees can enjoy canoeing, bluegrass bands, crafts, nature hikes, camping, local vendors, and food with all proceeds going directly to organizations supporting Hemlock Tree health. They have been continuously generous to our lab as well as labs at Young Harris College (YHC) and the University of Georgia (UGA) with donations that have helped us do everything from having year-round student assistants to a 4X4 truck to get around the mountains easier.
We are also grateful to former Rep. Amos Amerson, who had the foresight to realize the impact we could have on a local issue. Through generous state funding, our lab has been able to keep abreast of the latest HWA research through conferences and the ability to access proper gear to continue progress that might not have been possible otherwise.
What are the lab's future plans and goals for continuing the fight against the HWA?
Because we work closely with YHC, UGA, and the University of Tennessee, we have the ability to compare assessment data and coordinate beetle releases depending on need. This has helped direct the distribution of beetles and establish best protocols for release and assessment on a year-to-year basis. We also have changed dates on when releases start and end in a season based on the changes in weather and seasonal temperature over the past few years.
We hope to raise a new beetle, the Scymnus coniferarium, from the Northwest that feeds during the summer when our current beetles are winding down for the season. The Environmental Leadership Center and Predator Beetle Lab also will continue to educate the community on forestry pests and how to prevent invasive insect spread in the future.