A response to "Media representation of hemlock woolly adelgid management risks: a case study of science communication and invasive species control," published in biological invasions online on September 18, 2018
The hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA), Adelges tsugae (Annand), has become one of the most important and impactful non-native forest insect pests in eastern North America (Foster et al. 2014). Over the past 30 years, the decline of hemlock trees has generated a passionate and energized response by landowners, public and private land managers, and the general public, leading to federal, state, and grass-roots efforts and support to help fight this invader. The management effort for HWA has been covered repeatedly in the popular media, especially when the pest and its impact have spread into new locations. Leppanen et al. (2018) evaluated the popular media's coverage of the invasion, with an emphasis on how the media treated the effectiveness and potential non-target impacts of management options. The authors conducted a Google search that identified 674 potential articles, of which 104 were used in an analysis of media reporting. The authors coded the popular media articles using various key word categories related to management effectiveness and non-target impacts. For our comments, we focus on their discussion of management using biological control. Leppanen et al. (2018) concludes that the popular media fails to adequately discuss uncertainties and value judgements associated with the efficacy and potential non-target impacts of HWA biological control agents. They imply that the popular media overstates the success of HWA biological control agents and downplays the risks, and they place the blame for these perceived ethical lapses primarily on scientists and managers.