Southern pine beetles have long been a major forest pest in the South. The beetles historically starve evergreens to death. They tunnel though a tree’s bark and feast on a vital layer of tissue that provides the tree with water and nutrients. As the pine dies, its needles fade from green to yellow to red.
Generally, these beetles are not in the northeast because cold winters kill off the intruders. However, the winters are no longer cold enough. The Southern pine beetles are now frequently spotted in New Jersey, New York and parts of New England.
According to the journal Nature Climate Change, by mid-century some 40,000 square miles of pitch pine forests from eastern Ohio to southern Maine will be hospitable to the beetle. Foresters in the South have brought the pine beetle under control by, among other strategies, thinning even healthy woods, leaving the remaining trees stronger and more ready to withstand a beetle onslaught.
In New York, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has already felled more than 15,000 trees in Long Island to ward off the beetles, according to a department spokeswoman.