Southern Pine Bark Beetle by Dr. Andrew Londo

The USFS, along with the Mississippi Forestry Commission, set out traps for the southern pine beetle every spring, about the time the dogwoods begin to bloom. Fortunately for Mississippi, we have experienced record lows in southern pine beetle activity in recent years. This year, according to the USFS, will likely be the same. A very low number of beetles were trapped this spring. This, combined with less than a dozen reported beetle spots last year; make 2009 look like another good year for low SPB activity. A normal year will have several hundred. In recent years, Tennessee and Northern Alabama have been hit hard with SPB, sustaining significant loss of timber. Mississippi hasn’t had a bad SPB outbreak since 1995. Needless to say, we’re way over due for an outbreak. As fortunate as we are with the lack of SPB outbreaks, we are unfortunate in the number of Ips beetle attacks in recent years. Ips beetles activity was still high in 2008, and is expected to be high again in 2009. There are a few reasons for this. As you may recall, a few years ago Hurricanes Katrina, and Rita came through Mississippi. These storms left lots of damaged and stressed trees in their wake. These damaged and stressed trees were very susceptible to the Ips beetles. Elevated populations of Ips beetles were noted within weeks following Katrina. We also had drought conditions following these storms, which further stressed the trees.The IPS beetle populations responded and dramatically increased during that time. Since then, most of the beetle damage we’ve seen has been caused by IPS engraver beetles. One the reasons SPB activity has been so low the last few years, is because IPS beetle activity has been so high. They are essentially competing for the same trees, and the IPS seem to be getting there in numbers first.

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