Bug that could hurt Christmas tree industry found in West Michigan

One visible sign of balsam woolly adelgid infestation is tiny, white, cottony tufts on the trunks or lower branches of balsam, concolor or Fraser fir trees. Photo courtesy of Jerald E. Dewey (USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org.)

ROCKFORD, Mich. – An invasive bug that could threaten Michigan’s Christmas tree industry has been discovered in the western part of the state.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said Monday it had confirmed the presence of the balsam woolly adelgid near Rockford in Kent County.

A homeowner noticed several Fraser firs in their yard were declining and contacted an arborist, who spotted the infestation and alerted the state, the agency said.

It’s unclear how the bug reached Michigan or how long it’s been in the state.

“Human movement is one of the most common ways non-native species spread. When traveling, remember to leave firewood at home and buy it locally at your destination,” said Rob Miller, an invasive species prevention and specialist for MDARD.

The Balsam woolly adelgid has been on Michigan’s invasive species watch list for years. The sap-sucking insect damages trees, weakening or killing them over the course of many years. The balsam woolly adelgid favors true fir trees, including balsam, Fraser and concolor (white) fir.

“This invasive insect is a threat to the nearly 1.9 billion balsam fir trees in Michigan’s forests,” Miller said in a news release. “... As the third largest Christmas tree-growing state in the country, Michigan produces nearly 13.5 million fir trees each year.”

More: 11 invasive species to watch out for in Michigan

How to report an invasive species:

Non-Watch List species should be reported using the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN) online reporting tool or the MISIN smartphone app. Alternately, these species can be reported to the Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area for your region or your local conservation district.