By now, most Sierrans are aware of the threat to our native Hemlocks by the Asian insect, the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid. What you may not know, and should know, is that hikers can inadvertently be major factors in spreading the Adelgids. From January to July, the insects are in their "crawler" stage. If you brush against infected Hemlocks, the Adelgids can attach themselves to your clothing and be transported by you to a new location.
If you are hiking during this time, especially north of Dahlonega and east of Ellijay, you should automatically assume that you have picked up a few. As soon as possible, strip your clothes and wash or have them cleaned. This includes jackets, hats, and other items that we don't necessarily clean after every outing. This is very important in the effort to save our Hemlocks. The Adelgids can live on your clothes without food for up to a month. So please use caution while hiking in areas with Hemlocks, and be careful not to brush against Hemlock branches. Please "strip and clean" after your hike so the Hemlocks can live! For more on the fight to save our Hemlocks, visit www.lumpkincoalition.org.
This is also the easiest time of year to spot the presence of Adelgids on the trees because of the woolly egg sacs they create (see photo below). But the Adelgids that are crawling on the trees are small and dark as specks of black pepper, which makes them difficult to see on your clothing. Learn to recognize them, and report sightings to the Chapter Wildlands Committee.