Tag Archives: winter

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid

The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) is one of few insects active during the winter months, and so now is the perfect time to be on the lookout for this tiny invader. Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) is an invasive insect native to Japan. We think it was introduced in the mid-1900s when Japanese ornamental plants became very popular in American gardens. This tiny insect is specific to evergreen hemlock trees (Tsuga spp.), attaching to new branchlets and feeding on the hemlocks starchy liquids. This continuous feeding weakens the trees and can kill it over the course of about six years. HWA has caused the death of millions of hemlocks along the Appalachians, and gray, ghostly forests are moving ever northward into New York.

HWA egg sacs are the most visible form of the insect, seen from October-May, a time when most insect predators are not active. Egg sacs are found on the underside of hemlock branches and look like small, white, fuzzy blobs, like the tip of a cotton swab.

HWA reproduces twice a year, allowing for exponential population growth in a short period of time. NYS Parks is taking an active role in managing new infestations of HWA. Chemical insecticides, applied very specifically to individual hemlocks, are the best method of control. In addition, NYS Parks has released predatory insects as biological controls in several state parks, with the hope they will one day keep HWA populations in check. Parks just hosted two HWA volunteer training events in Western NY to help us determine presence/absence areas.

Now is the perfect time to be on the lookout for HWA. For more information, or to report sightings in NYS Parks, contact  invasives@parks.ny.gov

Witch Hazel

Just as we have to say goodbye to the resplendent colors of fall, the last flowering plants of the year put on a final show of color before we resign ourselves to a season of white snow, gray skies, and cold winds.

Witch-hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, is a generally inconspicuous understory species, often overshadowed by the birches and maples of New York’s forests, but when the trees lose their leaves every year, it gives this common shrub and opportunity to take the spotlight.

In early fall, witch-hazel plants begin to disperse their seeds, which have been ripening over the course of the entire year. At this time, the fruits of the plant open up to reveal two glossy black seeds which are explosively ejected away from the plant—this unusual behavior earns it the colloquial name, snapping hazel.

After the seeds have been dispersed, witch-hazel flowers bloom in preparation next year’s fruit. In New York, you’ll see the spidery yellow blooms beginning in mid- to late October and early November. Regional variations in colors range from greenish gold to red, but yellow is the most common color, especially in the Hudson Highlands region.

Photo by Tim Howard
Photo by Tim Howard

Featured image is a witch-hazel blossom. Photo citation: Vern Wilkins, Indiana University, Bugwood.org. Post by Paris Harper

Bear Tagging

The NY Department of Environmental Conservation maintains about 3-5 radio-collared female bears every year in order to collect long-term data on the reproduction and movement of black bears. As you can imagine, getting collars on bears is not an easy business. This winter, when a rabbit hunter hunter reported a denning black bear with cubs at Pinnacle State Park, the DEC knew that this was an opportunity that couldn’t be missed.

Adult female black bears give birth every other year, with birthing occurring around mid-January. Collars are never put on small cubs because they grow quickly and the collar would pose a strangulation risk. However, DEC felt that the mother bear identified by the hunter would be an ideal target for collaring.

This winter, DEC partnered with State Parks, the Black Bear Management class at Finger Lakes Community College in Canandaigua, and veterinarians and technicians from Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester in order to radio-collar one female black bear.  The process involves tranquilizing the bear while still in her den in order to attach the collar. Because the bear is usually immobilized for half an hour to an hour, the specialists also need to care for the cubs and keep them warm while others are working on their mother.

The following link to a YouTube video will give you a good idea of what a den visit entails,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJRDpTUIrJI

bear tagging 3

Bear cubs are very cute, but please remember that approaching mother bears and cubs, in their dens or out, is extremely dangerous!

photo by Josh and Jim McGonigal