Pine beetles remain continued threat to Long Island trees

Posted: Updated:
MANORVILLE -

A frantic effort is underway to stop what's being called the greatest threat ever facing Long Island’s Pine Barrens.

The Southern pine beetle is responsible for destroying 5,000 acres of pine trees of the Pine Barrens’ 100,000 acres. Another 6 acres of infested trees were recently discovered in East Hampton.

The beetle burrows into tree bark, causing "bullet holes" and killing the trees within a matter of months.

Forest specialist John Wernet is an environmental conservation officer for the state who has been working with a DEC team for the past three years, cutting down infected trees. He says warmer temperatures caused by climate change have caused the Southern pine beetle to migrate up the Atlantic Coast. 

"The only thing that really does kill the beetle is by cutting the tree down. We increase the likelihood it will be killed by either cold or heat," Wernet says.

Wernet says that while the beetle will never be eradicated, it must be managed or the Long Island Pine Barrens will disappear.

Dick Amper, with the LI Pine Barrens Society, agrees. He says slowing down the beetles' tree-killing spree is the Pine Barrens' only hope.

"If we lose our Pine Barrens, we lose the land that protects our water," he says.

At Henry's Hollow in Hampton Bays, experts say that so far it appears the DEC's efforts to eradicate the beetle have been a success.

Amper plans to continue his fight to get more state funds to combat the beetle.

"We are not out of the woods, but at least we are in the woods striking back,"  he says.

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