Pinelands oks cutting of 800 acres in beetle battle



oops, I mean beetle battle :p

that's ok, i fixed it for you -ben


Date: 030222

By Jack Kaskey, Staff Writer, (609) 272-7213
Press of Atlantic City, February 22, 2003

New Lisbon - The Pinelands Commission on Friday authorized the New
Jersey Forest Service to cut 800 acres of forest over the next two
years in an effort to control infestations of a tree-eating insect,
the southern pine beetle.

Only half the size of a grain of rice, the beetle has destroyed about
1,270 acres of forest at hundreds of locations across Cape May,
Cumberland and southern Atlantic counties since it first was
discovered in the Garden State in December 2001, according to the
Forest Service.

Foresters are concerned that if it is not actively controlled, the
pine beetle could spread exponentially in coming years, devastating
the state's extensive pine forests.

With Pinelands Commission approval now in hand, the service plans to
clear about 400 acres in Cape May County before the beetles become
active in the spring. Most of the areas to be cleared are in and
around Belleplain State Forest and Peaslee Wildlife Management Area in
Dennis and Upper Townships.

The commission's memorandum of agreement with the Forest Service also
allows the cutting of as many as 15 trees per acre on an additional 50
acres annually.

Once cut, infested trees will be chipped and removed, piled and
burned, or piled and covered with a plastic tarp.

During aerial surveys last summer, the state Forest Service
identified 264 outbreaks ranging from single trees to 250 acres in

Other large infestations include 130 acres and 123 acres in
Belleplain, 119 acres in Lester G. MacNamara Wildlife Management Area,
160 acres of private land southwest of Seaville, and 145 acres at Bear
Swamp Natural Area in Cumberland County.

In spring, newly hatched beetles fly as far as two miles in search of
a weakened pine tree, often one struck by lightning. The bugs burrow
through the tree's bark and then dig S-shaped channels between the
bark and the wood where they lay their eggs.

Although only one-eighth inch long, the southern pine beetle emits a
powerful pheromone that attracts thousands of others to its victim.
The bugs carry a blue-stain fungus that clogs the tree's vascular
systems, and the labyrinth of tunnels ultimately girdles the trees.

Once a population is established in a single tree, the bugs move to
adjacent healthy trees, spreading through a pine forest as fast as 50
feet a day.

Dead trees remain standing, their needles turning from green to
yellow to brown in about four months, increasing the potential for
forest fires. However, the Forest Service plans to leave standing
those dead trees that have been abandoned by the beetles in order to
provide habitat for insect predators, such as the checkered beetle.

* * *

To email Jack Kaskey at The Press:


This is the right idea. Cut and remove the infested trees. Just the cutting will help keep the forest healthy, which is the best defense against disease.

It's good to keep a small percentage of dead trees (snags), for wildlife habitat. I read some time ago about a formula to keep X amount of snags in a woodlot. It's when you have too much dead wood, or trees too tightly packed together, when the forest becomes unhealthy.


I think you do have to get rid of the trees somehow, but I wonder about this part, after they are cut:

"Once cut, infested trees will be chipped and removed, piled and
burned, or piled and covered with a plastic tarp. "

If the chipping is done on site, will it really address the problem? If the beetles eggs overwinter, which they apparently do, and the adult beetle is only half the size of a grain of rice, it seems that is would be nearly impossible to contain every minute piece that results from the chipping, and that there is a likelihood that at least certain percentage of eggs that would still remain on site.

And the covering with tarp too. I would guess the plastic is thick, and creates heat, but I wonder if these beetles can burrow through wood, would they be able to find a way to get out or around it either through the dirt? Kind of like a dog can dig out of his pen if he doesn't have a concrete pad?

Ben Ruset

Site Administrator
Oct 12, 2004
Monmouth County
I would imagine even cutting down the trees wouldn't solve the problem. What about the stumps? Are you going to be pulling the trunk out of the ground as well?

It would seem that you would have to either burn the wood, or chemically treat it somehow. My vote would go to burning it.