Southern pine beetle traps, which were set across the state this spring by N.C. Forest Service district staff and others, have given us some good news! According to the trapping results, there will likely be a low number of southern pine beetle infestations in the state this year.
That is good news because the southern pine beetle is recognized as “the most destructive forest pest in the South.” When an infestation breaks out, no pine tree is safe. The beetle populations grow exponentially and entire forests can be wiped out if action is not taken immediately. The injury they cause, costing an estimated $1.5 billion in the past several years [Forest Heath Technology Enterprise Team report 2014], is unparalleled by other native forest insects. Based on the trapping results, N.C. will likely avoid such damage this year.
The southern pine beetle infestation prediction, which is 75-85% accurate, was based on the numbers of southern pine beetles and checkered clerid beetles, their predator, collected in the traps. By looking at the ratio of the predatory checkered beetle to its prey, we can predict if the southern pine beetle will be problematic in the coming months.
Other states may not be as lucky. Predictions indicate that areas of Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and South Carolina may see some southern pine beetle activity. But, only time will tell. Infestations can always be more or less severe than predictions indicate. In addition, there are actions that can be taken, such as thinning a dense pine stand, that can help prevent a southern pine beetle infestation.