Officials optimistic on beetles

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 3, 2003

CROSBY &045; Though trapping surveys for 2003 have just begun, forestry officials are cautiously optimistic that southern pine beetle activity in the Homochitto National Forest will not return to last year’s epidemic proportions.

&uot;We have not seen nearly as much pine beetle activity as we saw this time last year,&uot; said Dave Chabreck of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forestry Service.

Each spring, warmer temperatures cause the beetles to begin dispersing from trees where they wintered, and foresters begin monitoring their activity.

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&uot;We will start running our traps now to give us an indication of population levels, and we can then predict activity,&uot; Chabreck said.

Last year, portions of the forest in the Brushy Creek area of Amite County and southwestern Franklin County suffered a particularly high rate of pine beetle infestations.

Chabreck estimated that over 10 million board feet of pine timber was cut and sold to slow the rate of new infestations in the forest during 2002, when trapping surveys recorded beetle populations ten times higher than the previous year.

According to information provided online by the Forestry Service, trap catches that exceed an average of 30 beetles per day are indicative of continued high activity. Trap catches last year in the Homochitto region averaged 38.5 beetles per day &045; nearly double the state average.

Chabreck said this year’s early indications are somewhat surprising.

&uot;It’s a little unusual, because it normally takes a couple of seasons to go through an epidemic like that,&uot; he said.

Pine beetle infestations produce reddening of foliage and dying crowns in trees as the insects bore into the trunks, leaving telltale sawdust piles.

Depending on the size and location of the outbreaks,

some timber may need to be cut and removed to protect healthy stands.

However, Chabreck said private landowners should seek advice from county agents or consultant foresters before thinning out trees.

&uot;Those professionals can help you minimize your losses and prevent further outbreaks,&uot; Chabreck said.