August 23, 2017
The Alabama Forestry Commission uses airplanes to spot pine trees damaged by beetles. The light green and brown trees indicate dead and dying trees damaged by the tiny insects.
Forestry professionals’ earlier predictions of a bad year for pesky pine beetles is coming to pass, especially for some counties in Alabama. Timber losses may be significant, according to Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) officials.
“When trees are drought-stressed as many are from last fall, their weakened state makes them more prone to insects and diseases,” said AFC Forest Health Coordinator Dana Stone. “This summer, we have seen a large number of trees dying across our state’s pine forests, and the culprit is southern pine beetle. In Montgomery County, AFC foresters have aerially detected over 100 beetle spots. When the number of beetle spots for a county exceeds one tenth of one percent of the pine-forested acres for that county, it qualifies as epidemic. Having fewer pine acres, Montgomery County has now reached that threshold.”
The Alabama Forestry Commission conducts flights throughout the year for the purpose of detecting and marking beetle spots on a digital map. It sends notification letters to landowners advising them they have an infestation, along with suggested control measures. The beetles are about the size of a grain of rice but damage the trees under the bark so detection can be difficult until trees are dying.
“Southern pine beetles are the primary killer of pines in Alabama, with unmanaged and overcrowded stands of southern pines most susceptible to attack,” Stone said. “Epidemic populations of this bark beetle occur periodically in the state, destroying hundreds of acres of pines. If not controlled, these expanding populations can devastate entire stands, causing millions of dollars in damage.”
The AFC has encouraged forest landowners to monitor their property for signs of damage, then contact their local AFC office or registered forester for management recommendations before taking any action, said State Forester Rick Oates. The AFC will continue to conduct both aerial surveys and ground checks to assess beetle activity across the state, he said.
The AFC is the state agency charged with protecting and sustaining Alabama’s forest resources using professionally applied stewardship principals and education, ensuring that the state’s forests contribute to abundant timber and wildlife, clean air and water and a healthy economy. Click here for additional information about southern pine beetle.