BERWICK, Maine — A tiny pest insect barely the size of a pinhead has been devastating Maine hemlock forests and forcing landowners to adapt to the pest’s presence.

The hemlock wooly adelgid (uh-DEL’-jid) first arrived in York County via natural spreading in 2003. The Portland Press Herald reports the insect has spread to four other counties and is now considered “established” by state bug officials.

Hemlock trees infested with the woolly adelgid in New England eventually turn brown from the top down before succumbing to the bugs. Often, an infestation is present for years before it is noticed.

In Berwick, forester Jeffrey Williams says about 40 acres (16.2 hectares) of a 100-acre (40.5-hectare) regional land trust were found to be infested with the insect, prompting tree cutting.

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