The US Forest Service is trying to determine if breeding populations of a beetle known as Laricobius are establishing themselves on adelgid-infested hemlocks. The beetles are natural predators of the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) and are found on western hemlocks on the west coast. Local entomologist, Dr. Richard McDonald, has been collecting Laricobius beetles for the Forest Service to release them here in our adelgid-infested mountains. The Forest Service has established several sampling sites to try and capture the beetles to prove that they are setting up shop, feeding on adelgids, and reproducing on their own.
County Director, Jim Hamilton, has accompanied US Forest Service Intern Bill Sweeney on several sampling trips to a stand of hemlocks adjacent to Valle Crucis Community Park. Pictured below are Sweeney (right) and Brian Chatham from Watauga Soil and Water checking a "beat board" (where foliage has been shaken to see what falls out!). Since Laricobius beetles hatch from eggs laid in the litter below trees, collection traps are placed into the soil in an attempt to capture them as they crawl out of the soil to seek out adelgids. While a few beetles were found in the foliage of these hemlocks earlier in the year, their offspring have yet to be detected in the traps this fall.