Residents in four Georgia counties are encouraged to be on the lookout for signs of damage from the destructive southern pine beetle, according to a recent press release from the Georgia Forestry Commission.
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A recent survey by GFC foresters found that Echols, Twiggs, Dawson, and Greene counties were identified as locations with the highest probabilities of experiencing a southern pine beetle or SPB outbreak this year.
SPB populations have been known to decimate thousands of acres of forestland. The beetles feed on trees’ inner tissues, causing tree mortality and financial losses.
Signs that the beetle is active in your immediate area include the presence of “pitch tubes” in tree bark and “galleries,” or the marked trail of beetles underneath the bark , the release stated.
The state agency listed ways landowners can help protect their trees against the insects on a web page about the Southern Pine Beetles.
Those practices can include:
Non-commercial thinning of dense, overcrowded pines
Chemical or mechanical release of pine stands (use of selective herbicides)
Prescribed burning to reduce competing hardwoods and underbrush beneath pines
Matching the correct species of pine to a land site by planting and maintaining an appropriate mix of loblolly, slash, shortleaf and white pine trees
Longleaf pine, the most SPB-resistant variety, should be considered for planting instead of loblolly in areas within the longleaf’s specified range in Georgia
Hardwood planting for pine stands that have been killed by SPB
The Georgia Forestry Commission works with the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Health Protection Unit to conduct special samples through a prediction trapping and aerial survey program, according to the state agency’s web page about the beetles.
These initiatives allow for the collection of samples from various Georgia counties in order to anticipate and plan for SPB activity.
GFC also assists with the Southern Pine Beetle Prevention and Restoration Cost Share Program. That program lets Georgia landowners wanting to take action and implement various forestry practices that promote tree health and avoid initial SPB infestations, or restore areas killed by the beetles, according to the agency’s SPB web page.
People can apply by going to GFC’s “Southern Pine Beetle Cost Sharing Program” web page.
- Learn more about how to protect your land from the Southern Pine Beetle at https://gatrees.org/southern-pine-beetles/.
- Apply for the state’s “Southern Pine Beetle Cost Sharing Program” at https://gatrees.org/forest-management-conservation/cost-share-incentive-programs/.
“We want to get this information out to landowners,” said Georgia Forestry Commission Forest Health Coordinator Lynne Womack, “because there are certain things that can be done to prevent and control outbreaks. Now through fall is the time to inspect carefully and take action, if needed.”
Both Echols and Twiggs counties ranked in the highest category of trapped beetle locations, while Dawson and Greene Counties had counts greater than 50 but less than 80.
“With the exception of Echols and Twiggs Counties, we expect SPB activity overall to be low this year,” said Womack. “Good forest management practices can make tracts less attractive to these beetles, and that includes thinning, prescribed burning, and invasive species control to prevent overcrowding and stress in the stands.”
The Georgia Forestry Commission will keep monitoring locations of beetle spots throughout the year, and routine annual aerial surveys will be conducted in late summer 2023 to further document SPB activity.
“All infestations will be reported to landowners, and GFC foresters will work with landowners to limit damage and control infestation,” the agency’s press release added.