Detroit/ Parks & Nature
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Published on March 03, 2024
Sleeping Bear Dunes Closure: Michigan's Battle Against Invasive Insect InfestationSource: National Park Service employee, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The picturesque trails of Sleeping Bear Dunes will be a little less busy this summer as park officials announce a shutdown due to a pesky invader, the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA). As reported by CBS Detroit, the Southern boundary of the National Lakeshore, which includes the Old Indian Trail, unfortunately, won't be seeing hikers for a while as the National Park Service scrambles to control the infestation of these needle-munching insects.

These tiny bugs are more than just a minor nuisance; they pose a significant threat to Michigan's hemlock trees, which play a critical role in the local ecosystem. Carrying out a veritable nutritional heist, the adelgids suck the life out of these trees by targeting the base of their needles, as disclosed by CBS News Detroit. According to the National Park Service, the HWA has had a grip on the area since 2015, slowly killing the hemlocks within four calendar years.

It's a full-on arthropod crackdown until fall, with park authorities implementing mitigation measures to slow down the bug blitz. As per 9and10news, the public can also play a part in containing the outbreak. That includes drying hiking gear on high heat, avoiding parking under trees with low-hanging infested branches, and even downloading the MISIN app to turn those trailside selfies into citizen science that could help monitor the spread of the adelgid.

The woolly terror has been meandering up the Lake Michigan coastline, causing the park to jump into action as far back as 2018 with annual winter surveys. Lest we forget, these trees aren’t only a canopy for hikers but also a refuge for birds and mammals, according to a reveal by National Parks Traveler. With the loss of hemlock trees, the park would be stripped of both beauty and biodiversity.

While Sleeping Bear Dunes stands as a cherished bookmark in Michigan's natural heritage ledger, attracting over 1.1 million visitors annually, this summer's chapter comes with a clear message: respect the closure, help control the spread, and give nature a fighting chance against the unwelcome, woolly guest.