Portland's Baxter Woods to meet the beetles in battle with invasive pest

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PORTLAND — The city’s first effort to fight infestation by the hemlock woolly adelgid will begin Thursday in Baxter Woods, the preserve between Stevens and Forest avenues.

John C. Bott, a spokesman for the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, said last week that predator lady beetles will be released in the 32-acre preserve that was donated to the city almost 70 years ago.

Allison Kanoti, a department forest entomologist, said the release of the beetles will not eradicate the aphid-like invasive insect, but should reduce populations.

“It is not a silver bullet, but it’s the best management tool we have in the forest at this time,” Kanoti said. “This is a long-term solution; results will not be immediate.”

Infestations by the hemlock woolly adelgid can lead to the loss of hemlock needles, thinning of tree crowns and eventually, tree deaths, Bott said.

The beetles, raised in labs in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, are among 10,000 that will be released in southern Maine woodlands. The operation is funded by grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Described as resembling a miniature cotton ball, the hemlock woolly adelgid arrived from Japan during the 1950s, Bott said. It has been discovered in 19 states. In Maine, infestations have been reported as far north as Lubec and Bangor. In southern Maine, the insect has been reported as far inland as Sanford.

The release of the beetles will be accompanied by monitoring by local high school students, public education and “chemical management of adelgid on legacy hemlocks,” Bott said.

Baxter Woods was donated to the city by former Gov. Percival P. Baxter, in memory of his father, former Mayor James P. Baxter.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.