Beware of the Southern pine beetle

A beetle that can overwhelm and kill healthy trees has been detected in Connecticut for the first time.

The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said the Southern pine beetle (Dendroctonus frontalis) has been detected at five sites in New Haven County and one each in Litchfield and Hartford counties.

Southern pine beetle is native to the southeastern United States and has long been a major pest of timber plantations in that region. The beetle can overwhelm and kill healthy trees.

Southern pine beetle predominately attacks “hard” pines. In Connecticut, vulnerable trees include red pine, Scotch pine and Austrian pine.

The native tree of most concern is pitch pine, according to a CAES press release. Pitch pine was once an abundant tree in the state, but due to development of its preferred habitat (the sand-plain ecosystem), it now remains in scattered patches throughout the state.

While Southern pine beetle will attack eastern white pine, the state’s most abundant pine, this is a non-preferred host.

The Southern pine beetle is a small, destructive beetle, about 2mm (or slightly less than 1/10th of an inch) in length.

Pines attempt to push the attacking beetles out with a flow of resin. Attacked trees are thus covered with small popcorn-like blobs of dried resin.

If the attack is successful, the beetles lay eggs under the bark, the larvae then feed on the circulatory system of the tree, and kill the tree in one to two years.

Anyone who observes pine trees with the popcorn resin should contact CAES at [email protected] or 203 974-8474.

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