NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Breaking News

Community News Network

December 23, 2013

Despair over 'the bug that ate Christmas'

In West Virginia's scenic Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, with its gently sloping mountains and emerald acres of timber, Mike Powell relishes the perks of his job as a caretaker of the land: the sounds of a gurgling stream and the fresh pine scent of evergreens.

But one sight deeply troubles him — the haggard look of the valley's fabled Christmas trees. Some are bent like old men. The eye-popping green hue that makes people want to adorn them with ornaments had yellowed. A few were covered with hideous waxy balls, a telltale sign that they were under siege by the balsam woolly adelgid, a tiny insect with a notorious reputation among entomologists, who call it "the bug that ate Christmas."

Along the southern Appalachian range, they are eating two of the nation's most popular wild Christmas trees — Canaan and Fraser firs — to death.

People who buy Christmas trees at farms need not worry. Farmers who grow Christmas trees control the pest with a potent and costly insecticide, two-man crews spraying one to two acres a day. They work with agricultural extension agents to develop the most efficient pest management strategy because, said Rick Dungey of the National Christmas Tree Association, "it's very expensive."

But there's no stopping adelgids in the wild, where applying chemicals might take out far more organisms than the target.

"We've seen a tremendous decline" in the Canaan fir in its native area, said Powell, who manages a tract of woods for the Nature Conservancy. "We're concerned that it'll decline to the point that you'll only see it on tree farms. These trees will survive on tree farms, but in the wild . . . we could lose that tree."

Fraser firs, North Carolina's best-selling Christmas tree, have been all but wiped out on Mount Mitchell in Mount Mitchell State Park since the adelgid was discovered there in the mid-1950s.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Community News Network

Offbeat
NDN Video
Big Weekend For Atlanta Braves In Cooperstown - @TheBuzzeronFox Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director What's Got Jack Black Freaking Out at Comic-Con? Doctors Remove 232 Teeth From Teen's Mouth Bradley Cooper Explains His Voice in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years LeBron James -- Dropped $2k On Cupcake Apology ... Proceeds To Benefit Charity Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Weed at the White House Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot
Special Features
NRA Waterfront Plans