DEC CONFIRMS SOUTHERN PINE BEETLE IN ALBANY PINE BUSH
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), in cooperation with the United States Forest Service and the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission (APBPC), has confirmed the presence of southern pine beetle (SPB) in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. A single beetle was caught in a trap near Rapp Road in Albany. This is the farthest north SPB has ever been confirmed in the Northeastern United States.
“The southern pine beetle poses a significant threat to New York’s pine forests,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “DEC is actively fighting the infestations of this invasive pest and continues searching for signs of the beetle in Upstate New York, to help stay ahead of these destructive pests. Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s leadership in increasing New York’s Environmental Protection Fund, DEC will be able to strengthen our work to slow the spread of the southern pine beetle and increase the long-term health and sustainability of our pine forests.”
SPB, a bark beetle native to the southern United States, has steadily expanded its range north and west, most likely in response to climate change. Considered one of the most destructive forest pests in the United States, SPB attacks several species of pine including pitch pine, an iconic species of the Pine Bush and other pine barrens throughout the state. Trees can die quickly from repeated beetle attacks, often succumbing within two to four months.
DEC’s Division of Lands and Forests and the APBPC began placing early detection traps in the preserve in 2015. Additional traps set in the Hudson Valley by DEC and partners confirmed the presence of SPB in Minnewaska State Park, Bear Mountain State Park, Schunnemunk State Park, and Roosa Gap State Forest in 2016 and 2017. Despite these detections, infested trees have not yet been found north of Long Island. The beetles are likely persisting at low levels upstate and therefore not causing the widespread tree mortality like that observed on Long Island. The Albany Pine Bush Preserve will be added to the locations identified for continued aerial and ground monitoring to search for infested trees.
“We’re pleased to be partnering with the forest health experts at DEC to monitor invasive forest pests in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve,” said Christopher Hawver, APBPC Executive Director. “It’s important in aiding our understanding of the dynamics of the Pine Barrens here in Albany.”
The APBPC does extensive forest thinning and prescribed burning to restore the globally-rare inland pine barrens and in the process, have created young forest habitat, increased populations of the endangered Karner blue butterfly, and improved ecosystem health. This habitat management has the added effect of reducing the likelihood of an outbreak of SPB because healthier pines are better equipped to withstand attack by the beetles. A more open forest structure also disrupts the beetle’s chemical communication, preventing them from attacking in large groups and overwhelming a tree’s defenses.
“Healthy ecosystems better tolerate potentially invasive species,” said APBPC Conservation Director, Neil Gifford. “Based on what we know about the management of this insect in its native range to the south, thinning and burning to restore the barrens should also help us make sure SPB does not decimate pitch pine in the preserve.”
In 2017, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo targeted $3 million from the Environmental Protection Fund to help manage the spread of SPB. The additional funds bolstered DEC’s ongoing efforts to manage the invasive pest, which has killed thousands of pine trees on Long Island since it was first discovered in 2014. The 2018-19 budget proposes an additional $250,000 for prescribed burns, which will help increase forest health and resistance to SPB on Long Island.
DEC is asking the public to report any recently dead or dying pitch pine and red pine they encounter outside of Long Island, especially if there are several trees grouped together and they are dying quickly. Sightings may be reported to the Forest Health Diagnostic Lab through the toll-free information line, 1-866-640-0652 or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org. If possible, accompany any email reports with photos of the trees and close-ups of any damage. Please include something in the photos for scale, such as a penny, to help with identification. For additional information, please visit https://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/99331.html.