The Southern Pine Beetle (SPB) is a bark beetle that infests and kills Pine Trees. All over New York, they have caused devastation to many stands of Pine Trees in alarming rates.
The SPB is small, only 2-4 mm in length! It is about the size of a grain of rice, and is red-brown to black. It is very hard to see these bugs, so its easier to observe the trees for possible infestation.
The adult SPB enters the tree through crevices in the bark. This is where it lays its eggs. The SPB then creates S-shaped galleries just beneath the bark as it moves around the tree.
By creating a massive amount of galleries beneath the bark, the SPB disrupts the flow of nutrients in the tree, killing the tree in typically 2-4 months. Over time, the trees needles start to turn red/brown and fall off. Pine Trees hold their needles all year, so this is a telltale sign that something is wrong
When the SPB enters the bark of a Pine Tree, the tree resists the initial attack by secreting resin. The resin is a natural defense mechanism that Pine Trees produce to close up the holes and resist disease and other pests. The resin makes circular, popcorn-like "pitch tubes" throughout the entire bark of the tree. Although this is a strong defense, Pine Trees are not always able to protect themselves when attacked by an abundant amount of SPB.
When the SPB is full grown, they exit the Pine Tree and find another tree to inhabit and lay eggs. They leave a pencil sized exit hole. This is another distinctive feature that the SPB is present from observing the bark.
New York, Pitch Pines have been attacked by SPB more than any other tree species.
Recently, we have been battling an infestation in the Long Island Central Pine Barrens. Thousands of trees have been cut down due to the SPB. Without proper IPM plans and monitoring in place, the SPB will quickly spread throughout Long Island.
The Central Pine Barrens are an important part of Long Island's ecosystem because it is globally rare and provides habitat to a wealth of unique and rare species. The Central Pine Barrens is also integral to recharging the region's only aquifer, providing clean and abundant drinking water. It is important we preserve Pitch Pine's in this area because they are the most abundant species of tree, and a unique ecosystem in Long Island.