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Southern Pine Beetle Reaching Outbreak Levels In North Florida

GAINESVILLE---Southern Pine Beetle populations have exploded to outbreak levels along the Suwannee River in Hamilton and Madison counties, where the tree-killing beetle has invaded several pine plantations.

Forest owners throughout North Florida need to check their stands and begin control measures if they spot the voracious beetle, said entomologist John L. Foltz, of the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

The Southern Pine Beetle can be a costly pest, Foltz said. A recent historical review showed that it caused $900 million in damage to U.S. pine forests from 1960 through 1990.

Foltz and forest entomologist James R. Meeker of the Florida Division of Forestry spotted rapidly expanding infestations of Southern Pine Beetle on several plantations of 20-year-old loblolly and slash pine in the last week of June. They recommend that all forest owners survey their property, as should homeowners who might have vulnerable loblolly pines, the beetles' preferred hosts.

The Southern Pine Beetle is the most aggressive and destructive of five bark beetles that feed on southern pines, Foltz said. In fact, its scientific name, dendroctonus, means "tree killer."

The most effective way to eradicate the beetle under outbreak conditions is to remove infested pines, an approach that requires the cooperation -- and understanding -- of an entire community. Using this approach during an outbreak in Gainesville in 1994 saved thousands of trees in the urban forest, minimized use of pesticides and saved money.

"With quick detection and quick, areawide control, overall tree mortality can be kept quite low," Foltz said.

Tree removal, however, sometimes is misunderstood, Foltz said, and in some communities, cutting down infested pines can cause controversy.

"People sometimes have problems cutting down infested pines. The trees are still green and they
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Contact: John L. Foltz
FOLTZ@gnv.ifas.ufl.edu
352-392-1901
University of Florida
3-Jul-1996


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