Southern Pine Beetle has been spotted in Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge in Shirley, the Connetquot River State Park Preserve in Oakdale, the Henry’s Hollow Pine Barrens State Forest in Hampton Bays and recently (December 2014) in Belmont Lake in North Babylon, Heckscher in East Islip, Brookhaven in Wading River, and the Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Great River.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), in cooperation with the United States Forest Service, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and the Central Pine Barrens Commission, originally confirmed the presence of the beetle in three locations along the southern shore of Long Island and recently in four more locations (since December 2014).
The southern pine beetle is a bark beetle that infests pine trees. It is native to the southern United States and has expanded its range northward and westward possibly due to milder winter temperatures. There has not been enough sustained cold to kill off the insect before reproducing and doing damage; hence, the population is increasing. The Southern Pine Beetle is the most invasive pest known to the south and has done extensive damage to the pine population there. To identify the beetle, it is only 2-4 mm in length which is about the size of a grain of rice, and is reddish-brown to black in color.
The beetle does its damage by entering through the crevices in the bark and tunneling down until it reaches the cambium growing layer directly below. There the female creates S-shaped tunnels through the living tissue and lays her eggs. After the eggs hatch, the larvae will feed from these tunnels sucking the tree of nutrients. The new adults eventually bore through the outer bark leaving round holes that often appear as a shotgun pattern and the cycle repeats itself. Most trees die quickly, often within 2-4 months, due to disruption of flow of nutrients and girdling from tunnel construction. Here on Long Island the host tree for the beetle is the pitch pine which is prevalent in the Pine Barrens.
DEC urges the public to report any recently dead pine they encounter in the Long Island area, especially if there are several trees grouped together. Sightings should 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 reports via email with photos of the trees including close ups of any damage. An added item in the photo for scale, such as a penny, would help with identification.