It’s here … and so are they

The Gi­ants of Nova Sco­tia 2019 cal­en­dar is out, but so are two species of in­sects that are eat­ing their way through the prov­ince’s forests

South Shore Breaker - - Wheels - CYN­THIA MCMUR­RAY cm­c­mur­[email protected]­ald.ca

Nova Sco­tia forests have never looked more beau­ti­ful than this past fall.

Held off by the un­sea­son­ably warm weather, when the leaves be­gan their yearly trans­for­ma­tion it was al­most in­stan­ta­neous. Bril­liant deep reds and or­anges popped among the thou­sands of trees, tem­pered only by muted yel­lows and greens that seem­ingly flowed end­lessly across the hills and val­leys of the prov­ince.

But be­neath these pic­tureper­fect gi­ants, lies a minute, al­most un­de­tectable in­sect known as the hem­lock woolly adel­gid (HWA).

Less than 1.5 mil­lime­ters long, the HWA is ca­pa­ble of wip­ing out an en­tire for­est of mas­sive hem­lock trees — and all in a mat­ter of just a few years.

But one man is on a mis­sion to bring aware­ness to the is­sue, if for no other rea­son than to slow the in­evitable.

This past sum­mer, Tom Rogers, South Shore res­i­dent and con­cerned ad­vo­cate for at-risk Nova Sco­tia forests, launched an aware­ness pro­ject — Gi­ants of Nova Sco­tia.

The idea for the pro­ject, which in­volves a 2019 cal­en­dar de­pict­ing some of the prov­inces most beau­ti­ful trees, came to him while walk­ing through the “stun­ning trees” on his own prop­erty, he says.

“If the HWA makes its way here, for me per­son­ally, it would be an eco­log­i­cal dis­as­ter. This is hem­lock coun­try,” Rogers adds.

Like many of the non-na­tive de­struc­tive species that end up Nova Sco­tia, HWA was first in­tro­duced into Vir­ginia State from Ja­pan around 1950, where it spread across the north­east­ern U.S.

The aphid-like in­sect kills hem­lock trees by feed­ing on their nu­tri­ent- and wa­ter-stor­age cells at the base of the trees’ nee­dles. In July 2017, HWA was first de­tected in Yar­mouth and to put this into per­spec­tive, Rogers says, “In North Carolina, they have hem­lock forests that have been com­pletely wiped out in one fell swoop — just five years from start to fin­ish.”

While some may feel this is just another alarmist is­sue, Rogers says the HWA has now been iden­ti­fied in Ke­jimku­jik Na­tional Park, so it is al­ready mak­ing its way east. And all it takes for the HWA to hitch a ride to other forests in the prov­ince is a sin­gle piece of fire­wood, he adds.

The in­sect hides out in the bark of hem­locks trees, so when some­one brings an in­fect piece of wood to their camp­site, for ex­am­ple, they are un­know­ingly spread­ing the in­fes­ta­tion. His

2019 Gi­ants of Nova Sco­tia cal­en­dar is meant to keep that mes­sage in the fore­front.

Apart from rais­ing money for the Mersey-to­bi­atic Re­search In­sti­tute, a non-profit, co­op­er­a­tive re­search in­sti­tute in Queens County, look­ing at the as­tound­ing beauty that is our forests day-in and day-out over the year, is a gen­tle re­minder we can all do our part to bring aware­ness to the sit­u­a­tion, ex­plains Rogers.

Af­ter vet­ting more than 300 photo sub­mis­sions, Rogers said they picked 13 to rep­re­sent the thou­sands of trees that grace this prov­ince.

With the help of Anna Nib­byWoods, a vet­eran Mi’kmaq graphic de­signer, Rogers printed 1,000 cal­en­dars, more than 200 of which were pre-sold.

“My mo­ti­va­tion, more than any­thing, has been to get the word out about HWA be­cause it is some­thing we are go­ing to have to learn to live with. The fact is the hem­lock bug is only one of the de­struc­tive bugs that can af­fect our forests — a new one has just been found in Bed­ford that af­fects ash trees,” says Rogers, re­fer­ring to the emer­ald ash borer (EAB).

Like the HWA, the EAB likely ar­rived on a pal­let from China and made its way east, first spot- ted in On­tario and then Que­bec, where it spread to New Brunswick and now, Nova Sco­tia in just a mat­ter of a few years, ac­cord­ing to Rogers.

“This is ac­tu­ally a worse story than the HWA, as it (EAB) has a 100 per cent mor­tal­ity rate for these trees,” he says.

Be­cause ash trees are in most cities and ur­ban ar­eas, there will likely be more aware­ness than the HWA is­sue, as the de­struc­tion will be in plain sight.

“Since the emer­ald ash bore causes com­plete an­ni­hi­la­tion of

the ash trees, this will be a sig­nif­i­cant loss to our cities and ur­ban ar­eas where these tress are prom­i­nent,” says Rogers. “Not only does it kill the tree, but these bugs es­sen­tially bore un­derneath the tree, cre­at­ing a tun­nel­ing ef­fect that makes the tree un­sta­ble, so from a li­a­bil­ity stand­point, cities will have to start re­mov­ing the trees for safety reasons,” he adds.

For the city of Lon­don, On­tario, that meant clear­ing the en­tire city of in­fected ash trees, which also meant the peo­ple of the city of Lon­don were faced with foot­ing the bill to re­move more than 10,000 ash trees, ac­cord­ing to Rogers, which does not in­clude the tens of thou­sands of ash trees in city-owned wood­lands or the hun­dreds of thou­sands of trees on pri­vate prop­erty.

“We are at a point in his­tory where we are go­ing to have to learn find a way to adapt to this new threat. While it is great to be able to travel or just jump in our cars and go camp­ing for a week­end, we are also go­ing to have to be cog­nizant of what that means from an en­vi­ron­men­tal as­pect,” says Rogers.

This time of year, he says peo­ple need to be es­pe­cially aware of the pos­si­bil­ity of con­tam­i­na­tion as fire­wood ar­rives for another win­ter heat­ing sea­son. While larger busi­nesses are more aware of the is­sue and will not typ­i­cally sell hem­lock, it is also up to the pub­lic to be vig­i­lant, says Rogers.

“Peo­ple can help by ask­ing com­pa­nies that de­liver their fire­wood if they use hem­lock and if so, are they aware of the sit­u­a­tion and are they do­ing any­thing about it,” ex­plains Rogers.

To date, Rogers has sold more than 600 cal­en­dars, which are $15 or $18 shipped any­where in Canada, with all pro­ceeds go­ing to the Mersey-to­bi­atic Re­search In­sti­tute. You can learn more or pur­chase one at gi­antsofno­vas­co­tia.com. You can also email Rogers at gi­antsofno­vas­co­[email protected] or drop by the Alder­ney Land­ing farm­ers mar­ket on Dec. 8.

Con­trib­uted

Whis­perer taken by Sara Har­ley in Up­per Branch, Lunen­burg County.

Con­trib­uted

Sun­rise at the Pen­ney Farm by Ron Smith, taken in New Ger­many.

Con­trib­uted

Los­ing Ground taken by Paul New­ton in Bax­ter’s Harbour.

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