Pine trees in 26 New Jersey municipalities have been infested with the southern pine beetle, which is about the size of a grain of rice. The beetles settle into the tree bark, killing the tree. The pests originated in the southern portion of the U.S. but have been spotted in New Jersey since 2001. Last year the pine beetles destroyed 7,000 acres of pine trees.
Pine Beetle Project Manager of the State Forestry Services Ron Corcory said maintaining strong, healthy trees is one way to prevent loss from the beetles. “Weak trees are trees that are primed for the pine beetle to infest,” he said. “Once they get in that area, they create devastation.”
To stop the spread of infestations, contractors in four areas of South Jersey are cutting down infested trees and those that are close by and most susceptible to the beetles. To find the affected trees, the Department of Environmental Protection use surveillance planes and ground teams to look for obvious signs of infestation, discoloration.
Experts say the mild winter hasn’t helped prevent tree deaths because oftentimes the cold weather will kill a portion of the beetle population. Another reason why the beetles are thriving in New Jersey is because the bark in the state’s pine trees is thicker, creating a good environment for the pine beetles.
About $365,000 in federal grant money is available through the state DEP to municipalities and homeowners who are battling the pine beetles. NJToday’s Lauren Wanko files this report from Green Bank.