Eastern hemlocks have been dying off over the past several years due in large part to an invasive pest called the woolly adlegid. They form whitish massses on the undersides of the needles and draw the nutrients out of the tree – bringing on a gradual, lingering death, when the dark green mass of needles – so cool on a hot summer day – turn to a dry, brittle brown.

Now comes news that an entomologist at Umass-Amherst has been studying another alien species, a tiny speck of a beetle named Laricobius nigrinus that feeds strictly on the woolly adelgid. David Mausel is moving cautiously, mindful that introducing yet another alien species into the New England forests could wreak unexpected havoc – witness both the asian longhorned beetle and the gypsy moth.

But, according to an article in the Worcester Telegrm & Gazette, it’s so far so good. The beetles have successfully controlled the woolly adelgid in a number of test areas, and appear to be interested only in those and nothing else.

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