March 07, 2017
By Debra Davis
Southern Pine Beetle
Tiny beetles are eating away at one of the state’s largest industries. Infestations of Southern pine beetles and Ips beetles that normally aren’t seen in Alabama forests until late spring and summer are being reported earlier than normal and in higher numbers around the state.
“The Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) routinely conducts aerial surveys, and since Jan. 1 has recorded 250 areas with beetle damage,” said Alabama Farmers Federation’s Rick Oates. Last year 650 spots were reported statewide.
Oates, who is director of the Federation’s Forestry Division, said last year’s drought stressed trees making them susceptible to damage from Southern pine beetle, Ips engraver beetle, and black turpentine beetle, or a combination of all three. Landowners usually don’t know the insects are present until trees begin to die, he said.
Pines of various ages and sizes fall victim, from seedlings to mature trees, according to AFC Forester/Forest Health Coordinator Dana Stone. Most of the affected pines have brown needles and pitch tubes, indicating bark beetle infestation, she said.
The only remedy for stopping the beetles is to cut down the affected trees along with a buffer around them, said Oates.
“There’s a real concern our state could see significant losses in our forests because of the high number of cases already recorded,” Oates said. “That represents a big financial loss for landowners who will have to sell timber prematurely and for less money. Landowners also could be challenged to find loggers willing to harvest damaged timber.”
Landowners who suspect beetle damage should contact a local forestry consulting firm or the AFC at (334) 240-9300.
Timberland covers 23 million acres in Alabama, accounting for 69 percent of the state’s total land area. Alabama forests generate over $21 billion in timber production and processing revenue, according to the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES). Private citizens own 87 percent of Alabama forests, which provide over 122,000 jobs in timber production and processing.
For more information visit www.forestry.alabama.gov.