NYSDEC Slows Southern Pine Beetle’s Movement Across Long Island

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DEC’s Molly Hassett conducts an aerial survey of Southern Pine Beetle damage to pines on Long Island. Photos Courtesy Molly Hassett and DEC

Molly Hassett is the Southern Pine Beetle (SPB) Response Program Assistant for NYSDEC’s Forest Health section. She provided this report on the pest, which can devastate pines from New Jersey to Florida to Texas to Illinois.

But first, a note about an upcoming grant opportunity. NYSDEC Urban Forestry Coordinator Mary Kramarchyk says, “The DEC’s forest health section is a great partner to us in urban forestry. We collaborate and assist New York’s communities by sharing each other’s information and resources. Those Long Island communities affected by the southern pine beetle may benefit from the next round of urban forestry grants, especially if they missed the SPB grants. Inventory, planning, planting, and maintenance funds will be available this fall.

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Southern pine beetles are said to look like chocolate sprinkles. It’s just 3 mm long. Photo by Molly Hassett
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Southern pine beetles attempt to enter the tree through a “pitch tube” — a resin mass that the tree produces to try to defend itself against further attack.

Southern pine beetle was first found on Long Island, New York in October 2014. Since then, the beetle has killed thousands of pitch pine trees on Long Island. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) continues working to slow the beetle. DEC monitors southern pine beetle with traps, aerial surveys, and ground surveys.

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DEC Intern James Rittenhouse inspects a tree for SPB during a ground survey.

Management of southern pine beetle includes cutting down infested trees (spot suppression), removing some trees to reduce competition and make the forests healthier and more resistant to the beetle (preventive thinning), and replanting pitch pine trees. To date, more than 10,000 infested trees have been cut to lower the population of southern pine beetle and more than 600 pine trees were planted to replace those lost along impacted trails at Connetquot River State Park, home to rare pine barren habitat. The pitch pines and white pines planted at Connetquot were grown at the DEC’s Saratoga Springs tree farm.

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DEC Intern Allison Brady limbs an SPB-infested tree that was cut down.

To supplement these efforts, DEC accepted applications for Southern Pine Beetle Community Recovery Grants in July of 2016. Under the Southern Pine Beetle Community Recovery Grant program, Long Island communities applied for funding to remove infested or dead pine trees or to plant trees to replace those lost to southern pine beetle.

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Volunteers replanted pitch and white pines at Connetquot Park on I Love My Park Day – Saturday May 7, 2016.

Grants will be awarded to municipalities, municipal corporations, soil and water conservation districts, school districts and/or community colleges that have a public ownership interest in the property or are acting on behalf of a public property owner and will range from $25,000 to $75,000. Awards are expected to be announced in November. Through the Southern Pine Beetle Community Recovery Grants, DEC plans to work with communities to slow southern pine beetle, remove hazard trees, and replant impacted areas across Long Island.

For more information, see the May 2016 New York State Southern Pine Beetle Management Plan and the DEC’s SPB page.

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