Insect invasion could affect Skaneateles Lake drinking water

Arborist/Foresters Tracy Yardley and Robert Duckett discuss an insect invasion along Skaneateles Lake with a resident. The insects threaten the shoreline Hemlock trees and could affect water quality in the lake

An insect the size of a period is threatening the ecosystem of Skaneateles Lake and its shoreline, with possible serious consequences not only for the beauty of the area, but also for the drinking water that comes to Syracuse from the lake.

The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid is an invasive species from Japan that's already decimated forests in the Carolina Great Smoky Mountains. It's spread up the east coast, and the NY DEC has been tracking it, as it's moved upstate.

The invasion is identifiable: the hemlock's needles are covered with what look like small cotton balls at their base. The needles fall off, and the trees eventually die, in as little as 2 to 6 years.

Arborist/Forester Robert Duckett, who with his partner Tracy Yardley has discovered the local infestation, says the hemlocks play a key part in the Skaneateles shoreline ecosystem: they shade the many streams that flow into the lake and keep them cool, and they also 'protect' other trees that line the shoreline. Without them, says Duckett, lake temperatures would change and more nutrients and pollutants would flow into the lake---changing the quality of the water.

Even dealing with the infestation is more difficult, because of the lakeside location. Spraying could be a solution, but there's the consideration for water quality. In Maine, they're bringing in beetles to eat the aphid-like insects, but that's also being done on an experimental basis.

For now, it's a matter of getting more people to watch out for the invasives, and to set up a plan for both finding the insects.

They can be anywhere, including in landscaping (there's a shrub version in many gardens).

The invaders can be spread by wind and even birds, so there are also concerns about dealing with the infected trees. (One 'easy' suggestion: don't put bird feeders on hemlock trees)

It's expected there will be information meetings for shoreline residents and others who are concerned, soon.