South Carolina Forestry Commission |
(COLUMBIA, SC) - The southern pine beetle epidemic that has gripped upstate South Carolina for six years is finally weakening. Forestry Commission experts say only nine counties-Abbeville, Anderson, Edgefield, Greenwood, McCormick, Lancaster, Oconee, Pickens, and Saluda-remain in epidemic status.
According to the Commission’s forest health expert Andy Boone, beetle populations dropped dramatically this summer. Boone said plentiful rain invigorated the state’s pines, allowing them to better resist beetle attacks. Natural predators and diseases took a heavy toll on the beetles as well.
Specialists are rushing to complete another aerial reconnaissance of the state’s woodlands before hardwood leaves begin to color this fall. Autumn leaves make it hard for aerial observers to identify tell-tale red foliage characteristic of beetle killed pines.
Boone said the new survey will determine where hot spots of beetle activity remain. He cautioned that even with the epidemic on the wane, southern pine beetles never completely go away. "Constant vigilance and good forest management are the best prevention tools," he said.
Beginning in York County in 1998, the epidemic quickly spread across the upstate. According to Forestry Commission estimates, the tiny insects killed more than 29 million trees. The dead pines, valued at $391 million, represent a serious financial loss to private family forest owners who hold more than 70% of South Carolina’s woodland.
For more information about southern pine beetles, contact your local Forestry Commission office or look online at http://www.state.sc.us/forest/refspb.htm
For more information, contact: Ken Cabe, 803-896-8820