New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) have announced that southern pine beetles (SPB) were found farther north than previously documented and in greater numbers, suggesting their range is expanding and populations are on the rise.
SPB are destructive forest pests that pose a significant threat to the State’s pine forests, particularly pitch pine forests like those found in the Albany Pine Bush and Minnewaska State Park Preserve.
A joint research project between DEC’s Division of Lands and Forests and OPHRP’s Division of Environmental Stewardship and Planning resulted in a new trap detection of SPB at the Saratoga Sand Plains Wildlife Management Area in Saratoga County. Additionally, significantly larger trap catches of SPB were documented at locations in the Hudson Valley where SPB were previously found, and several infested trees were discovered in Taconic State Park, the first infested trees to be identified outside of Long Island. Ecologically sensitive pitch pine habitat in upstate New York will increasingly be at risk if SPB populations continue to increase and expand.
DEC, OPRHP, the Albany Pine Bush, and other partners have been monitoring SPB movement for several years in the areas of the State north of the known infestations in New Jersey and Long Island. Since 2016, SPB had been detected in low numbers in insect traps in the Hudson Valley but the recent increase in trapped beetles may mean they will soon be established north of Long Island. Trapping efforts in Schunnemunk, Minnewaska, and Taconic State Parks produced SPB numbers only previously seen on Long Island.
The three infested pine trees in Taconic State Park were found near Sunset Rock during joint survey efforts by DEC and OPRHP crews. A DEC strike team removed and destroyed the infested trees in cooperation with OPRHP staff. Surveys of pine forests near the increased trap catches continue, and experts with both State agencies and partners agree that more infested pines are likely to be found in the next few years as the climate warms.
Native to the southeastern United States, SPB was first discovered infesting pitch pines on Long Island in 2014. Since that time, it has killed hundreds of thousands of trees on Long Island alone. SPB attack primarily pitch pine and red pine but will attack additional conifers when outbreaks occur. DEC encourages the public to report any signs of SPB that they encounter in pine forests (outside of Long Island) by emailing pictures and location information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The signs of an infestation include discolored needles (yellowing to brownish-red), popcorn-sized clumps of resin called pitch tubes anywhere along the trunk, tiny holes in the bark in a scattershot pattern, and s-shaped galleries under the bark.
For more information, visit DEC’s Southern Pine Beetle webpage.
Photos, from above: southern pine beetle; and tunnels left by adult southern pine beetles, courtesy DEC.