Idaho Scientists Study Woolly Bugs Killing Fir Trees

Oct 29, 2018

The Idaho Department of Lands is tracking a tiny bug that kills fir trees throughout the state.

It’s called a Balsam Woolly Adelgid and it’s not from Idaho.

“This insect is native to Eurasia and it was brought over to North America most likely on infected nursery stock,” says Tom Eckberg, an Entomologist with the Idaho Department of Lands. He says the insect was first detected in the state in 1983, but it’s probably been here longer than that. 

The bugs are white, fuzzy and tiny.

“It’s not microscopic, but it's close. You really need a hand lens to see them. They’re probably no more than a millimeter or so in length,” says Eckberg.

They suck fluids from fir trees and inject a toxic compound from their saliva. That can hurt the growing points of the branches and eventually kill the tree.

“Once they start feeding, that’s when they molt to the next stage and they will create that waxy covering and it looks like floss or waxy wool,” says Eckberg.

The Department of Lands has been tracking and studying the bugs since 2008 and are spending time this year sampling selected fir trees for possible infestation. Trees throughout the state have been affected.

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