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Predator Beetle Lab opens its doors Sunday
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It’s a bit like a science fiction movie: Scientists work feverishly come up with the perfect antidote to kill off the aliens that are attacking the host planet.

In the case of the planet known as the Eastern hemlock tree, the alien is the woolly adelgid, and the cure is being developed in the laboratories at North Georgia College & State University.

The school’s Predator Beetle Lab will hold an open house Oct. 14 to explain the production process used to breed the beetles in the effort to save the hemlock.

The open house is set for 1-3 p.m. at the lab, located at 332 Sunset Drive, Dahlonega.

The Lumpkin County Coalition will hold the annual Hemlock Festival during the first weekend of November to help raise awareness of the plight of the hemlock.

The woolly adelgid, an invasive species to North America, was accidentally introduced to the East Coast after being unknowingly transported from Asia. The woolly adelgid pierces the bark of its host tree and feeds on nutrients in the tree’s sap, which weakens and eventually kills the tree.

The predator beetles reared in labs such as North Georgia’s feed on the woolly adelgid larvae.

Amanda Newton, manager of the NGCSU Predator Beetle Lab, feels the open house will be a good opportunity to educate students and the public on predator beetle production and the campaign to save the Eastern hemlock.

Newton said the beetle has spread to Dahlonega.

“We will be giving tours showing and describing the beetle production process, and will have displays showing hemlock damage and ways in which the beetles have been helpful in combating the problem,” Newton said. “There will also be pinned specimens of other insects for attendees to examine.”