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Tiny Beetle Poses Big Threat to Maine Forests

The southern pine beetle is about half the size of a grain of rice.

Biologists and forest managers in Maine are taking steps to thwart potential damage to the state’s pine trees caused by the southern pine beetle. Endemic to the southeastern U.S., the diminutive insect kills pines by boring through the bark and wood, and has steadily expanded its range northward due to the warming climate (winter freezes usually kill the beetles). The beetle is endemic from the Mid-Atlantic states to Texas. In the south, it has caused timber losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars over the past few decades, according to an article on MaineTree.org. The beetle prefers to attack “hard pine” species such as red pine and pitch pine, but white pine, spruce, and hemlock are also at risk.

In 2021, the first southern pine beetles were found in York County’s pitch pine forests, and now managers are trying to protect the iconic Waterboro Pine Barrens and other coastal forests. Techniques to limit or prevent beetle outbreaks include forest thinning, prescribed burns, and insecticide treatment.

Read more about the southern pine beetle and how it could devastate Maine’s pine forests.

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