Pine beetles invade Homochitto forest, threaten timber industry

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 12, 2002

GLOSTER &045;&045; A pine beetle epidemic is plaguing south Mississippi and is threatening the area’s timber industry, particularly in the Homochitto National Forest.

&uot;We have identified 247 separate outbreaks in the district so far,&uot; said Dave Chabreck of the USDA Forestry Service in Meadville.

The voracious beetles bore through tree trunks. If enough of them attack a tree, the tree can die.

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&uot;The Amite County area near Brushy Creek and parts of Franklin County near Clear Springs have been hit really hard,&uot; Chabreck said.

Spring trapping surveys in the Homochitto National Forest found pine beetle populations 10 times greater this year than in 2001.

&uot;Last year, we averaged about four beetles per trap per day,&uot; said Chabreck, adding that this year traps are yielding up to 40 beetles per day.

Chabreck said pine beetle populations run in cycles, peaking

every seven to 10 years.

&uot;We had epidemics here in 1986 and 1995, so this one is just about on cue,&uot; said Chabreck.

The Mississippi State University Extension Service recommends that landowners thin their trees at the right time to keep stands healthy.

Landowners who wait too long to harvest pine trees&045;&045;perhaps hoping for better pulpwood prices&045;&045;may increase the risk and extent of infestation.

Landowners are also advised to examine their trees for signs of infestation.

Large deposits of gum will appear on the trunk as beetles bore into a tree. Pine needles will begin to yellow and gradually turn a reddish-brown color on trees that have been attacked. Infested trees should be removed to stop the mature beetles from moving to nearby trees.

&uot;The goal of suppression is to reduce any further outbreaks,&uot; Chabreck said.

Depending on the size of a particular stand of trees and the extent of infestation, different approaches are recommended.

Chabreck said the district has sold over 4 million board feet of timber this year in an effort to cut and remove infested trees.

Landowners can get more information about forest insects and disease control from the Forestry Service online at