The annual HemlockFest , a three-day festival held to benefit the fight to save the Eastern Hemlock tree, will be held this year Nov. 1-3. Amanda Rose Newton, coordinator for the University of North Georgia's (UNG) Predator Beetle Lab, talks about how the festival and how it supports efforts to save the trees.
What does the HemlockFest entail?
HemlockFest is a three-day event featuring the best in local bluegrass music, educational programming, canoeing, arts and crafts, and primitive camping. The event is centered around educating locals and travelers about the importance of the Hemlock tree to the health of our ecosystem and factors attributing to its decline. Educational programming explaining the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA), an invasive pest, and its effect on tree health is available all weekend long in addition to the other family-friendly activities. The event also features food and activities with proceeds directly benefiting the fight against HWA.
How is the fight against the HWA progressing?
The battle is ongoing, and with the introduction of a new beetle, Scymnus coniferarium from Seattle, it is hopeful that there will be increased feeding potential in the years to come. Assessments have revealed that several species of predator beetle previously released are colonizing, so we know they are sticking around and continuing to feed on HWA. Bio-control is a slow process, so patience is key when assessing the success of this project.
How do proceeds from the festival benefit the UNG Predator Beetle Lab and others?
The University of North Georgia, Young Harris College, University of Georgia, and Clemson University are all currently working to raise predator beetles that feed on HWA, the pests attributing to the quick decline of our Hemlocks. For the past nine years, the Lumpkin County Coalition for the Environment has been presenting all net proceeds from HemlockFest to the rearing labs to continue their efforts in the field. The money is divided up based on equipment, labor, and beetle acquisition needs between the four labs. These donations have been instrumental for the purchase of incubators to better raise beetles, university vehicles to better handle mountain terrain, and to cover travel costs to procure beetles to be raised in the labs.