Foresters: Conditions are perfect for pine beetle outbreak - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Foresters: Conditions are perfect for pine beetle outbreak

June 27, 2006

Dougherty County -- South Georgia pine trees could be in danger because of the drought.      

Drought has hurt Southwest Georgia pine trees, increasing the danger of pine beetles.   The Georgia Forestry Commission is watching for signs of an outbreak, because they know the conditions are right for an attack by the tree killing insects.

Georgia Forestry Commission Rangers are seeing signs of pine beetles. Their planes have been doing aerial surveys over the Camilla District's 16-county area of South Georgia this week, looking for infestation.  

Georgia Forestry Commission Regional Urban Forester Chuck Norvell said, "If you see that sap coming out, something caused it. So it's likely a beetle attacked there. They take advantage of trees being stressed. So if you have extended drought along with high temperatures, which is what we have had, that's what they like."

Foresters are seeing lots of yellowed tops in pine trees, and know it's probably bark beetles. Foresters say spring burns to thin brush in pine stands during this drought may have brought on the insects.  

"It's real easy to get too hot a fire and damage the trees. That along with competition stress. A couple of stresses and the beetles are going to make some sort of attack," Norvell said.

Georgia Forestry will continue aerial surveys, watching for outbreaks. The beetles multiple vigorously and can infest forests quickly.  "There is really nothing you can do but maybe remove the infected trees."

Building in pine forests can also stress trees, and make them susceptible to beetle attacks.

Norvell says suburban sprawl could start infestations in urban areas. This year there is a good supply of parasite and predator insects that eat the pine beetle, and foresters hope those natural enemies will stop an epidemic. They will continue to watch for outbreak signs, because they know conditions are perfect for a pine beetle infestation in South Georgia pine trees.  

Georgia Forestry Commission reports that in 1998 pine beetles killed about 600,000 acres of pine trees in the Southern United States.  

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