MONTGOMERY, AL (WAFF) - The Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) has detected an increase in pine bark beetle activity in the southwest part of the state. AFC pilots are flying detection patterns to verify the actual extent of these infestations. Since October, a total of 193 bark beetle spots affecting 13,980 forest trees have been identified.
"During this time of the year, bark beetle activity should be declining," said Dana McReynolds, AFC Forest Health Coordinator. "Autumn weather is generally cool and wet, but instead it has been unusually hot and dry. As a result, bark beetle activity is increasing significantly, wreaking havoc on susceptible pine trees."
Some areas of the state have been especially hard hit by bark beetle infestations, such as Wilcox and Monroe counties. Both reported over 100 bark beetle spots each during a single detection flight.
At this time, it is uncertain which species of pine bark beetles are causing the outbreaks.
"Many of these spots may be Ips engraver beetle infestations rather than southern pine beetle," said McReynolds. "Both bark beetles, however, are native insects and can cause serious damage and mortality to pines. The Alabama Forestry Commission will continue to fly the state to monitor and detect for beetle infestations, as well as field check detected spots to distinguish which insect caused the damage."
Ips engraver beetles usually attack weak, dying, or recently felled trees, and fresh logging debris. Large numbers of Ips beetles may build up when natural events such as lightning storms, ice storms, tornadoes, wildfires, and droughts create large amounts of pine suitable for the breeding of these beetles.
The southern pine beetle (SPB) tends to follow trends in insect population buildups. From 2008 to 2010, SPB infestations have been on the decline in Alabama, with only isolated cases being reported.