ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is encouraging residents to report sightings of the invasive hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA). The DEC said this tiny insect is a big problem for forests and water resources in the northeast.

HWA threatens the eastern hemlock, which makes up large portions of the canopy in many New York forests and maintains water quality in streams by providing shade. The DEC said HWA lives, reproduces, and feeds on hemlock trees, killing trees within four to 10 years.

Staff from the New York State Hemlock Initiative, in cooperation with DEC’s Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health program, recently released a predator beetle to control HWA on state land—North South Lake Campground—in Greene County. At the end of November, they released 856 live beetles in a stand of hemlocks harboring HWA. It was the first release in the Northern Catskills.

The NYS Hemlock Initiative has been researching this beetle and other biocontrol efforts for more than a decade. DEC said previous releases showed promise in terms of the beetle population establishing itself. Laricobius beetles are specialist predators to hemlock woolly adelgid, meaning they only attack HWA. They feed exclusively on developing and adult HWA throughout the fall and winter seasons.

Residents can see where HWA specimens have been reported on the NY iMapInvasives website. The website shows HWA has been reported in the Capital Region.

You can help by checking your trees for HWA and reporting your findings to iMapInvasives. Keep an eye out for small white “fuzz balls” on the undersides of hemlock twigs—the DEC said those are HWA egg masses. Even if you don’t find any, you can let iMap know by submitting a “not-detected” report.

The DEC and its partners have been tackling HWA in parts of the state with a rapid response program relying on pesticides, but biocontrol is a better option for the long-term management of HWA. Learn more about HWA biocontrol on the Initiative’s website.