Officials seek public’s help to combat pine beetle infestation

Wildlife officials are struggling in the battle against invasive southern pine beetles on Long Island, which scientists say quickly kill trees and are proving tough

Wildlife officials are struggling in the battle against invasive southern pine beetles on Long Island, which quickly kill trees and are proving tough to contain.

Wildlife officials are struggling in the battle against invasive southern pine beetles on Long Island, which quickly kill trees and are proving tough to contain. (3/9/17)

SHIRLEY - Wildlife officials are struggling in the battle against invasive southern pine beetles on Long Island, which scientists say quickly kill trees and are proving tough to contain.

"Now that it's here, I'm not sure that we'll be able to totally stop it," says Monica Williams, a biologist with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

The options to fight the beetles are limited, Williams says. They include cutting down infested trees, which removes the bugs before they spread to healthy trees nearby.

A telltale sign of southern pine beetle infestation is the presence of white globules on the outside of a tree. Officials are urging people who see impacted trees to report them. Once a tree is dead, sinewy paths remain in the wood that scientists say are distinct markings of the southern pine beetle.

The invasive bugs are becoming a major problem for the Island's limited pine tree forests, officials say. They first appeared several years ago, possibly blown in during Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Irene. The beetles bore into bark and can kill trees very quickly by disrupting nutrients and introducing fungus.

Scientists say the beetles are spreading.

"Long Island is the largest Pine Barrens in New York state, and we are losing our principle tree species," says John Wernet, of the state Department of Environmental Conservation. "This is a serious issue. It is a very serious issue."

At the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge in Shirley, federal officials say about 50 percent of the pine trees there have been affected or killed so far.

More on this topic

Southern Pine Beetles

DEC - more information

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