South Carolina Forestry Commission |
(COLUMBIA, SC) - A major population explosion this spring has pushed southern pine beetle numbers to unprecedented levels in South Carolina forests. Based on data just collected, Forestry Commission experts warn of huge losses to the tiny tree-killers this summer.
Andy Boone, the Commission’s lead forest health scientist, said the beetle population now stands at more than three times the level of just a year ago. "We’ve never seen numbers like this anywhere in the southeast," said Boone. "The numbers go right off the chart."
Boone said 18 upstate counties are expected to experience severe, epidemic-level losses this summer. Five other counties may have less severe but still significant losses.
Beetle populations have been growing steadily over the past four years, killing more than $140 million worth of timber since 1999. Pines weakened by drought are easy targets for the insects, providing a good environment for the beetles to multiply. Natural enemies, including woodpeckers and predatory insects, aren’t keeping up with the rapidly expanding beetle population.
So far, most of the losses have been in the upstate. This year several coastal counties are also expected to feel the beetle’s bite.
Beginning in June, the Forestry Commission will use aircraft to locate and map suspected southern pine beetle infestations. Landowners will be notified if an infestation site is located on their property.
Information about southern pine beetles is available from your local Forestry Commission office or on the web at http://www.state.sc.us/forest/id.htm.