Local pines felled to halt invasion of beetles
Updated 8:35 am, Friday, July 31, 2015
First bears, now bugs.
On the heels of recent reports that bears are roaming through town, an invasion of destructive insects recently was detected attacking vulnerable pine trees on Cross Highway — an infestation that resulted in the trees being cut down and destroyed to prevent damage from spreading.
The Eastern white pine trees in a town right-of-way at 69 Cross Highway — a total of nine mature trees — were found to have been infested by Southern Pine Bark Beetles, according to an announcement Thursday by town Tree Warden Bruce Lindsay.
“The trees are now disposed,” Lindsay said later in the day. He said they were ground into chips on the advice the state Agricultural Experiment Station. Lindsay said Adriana Arango-Velez of the agricultural station took samples from all the trees back to her lab.
“The insect samples we took were dead and the presence of the borer, in the cambium (tissue layer) was minor,” he said. “The secondary issues at stake are blue stain fungus, which the beetles vector from tree to tree,” he said.
“There were five trees with the stain,” he noted. “This seems to be isolated, but the neighbor (of the right-of-way) has signs of the beetle in their spruces and pine.”
Lindsay was alerted to the beetles’ presence by local arborist Ben Sykas of the Care of Trees, according to the announcement.
Dr. Claire Rutledge of the state Agricultural Experiment Station’s entomology unit in New Haven confirmed that samples from the Westport trees had evidence of activity and remains by Southern Pine Bark Beetles.
When infestation in all the Eastern White Pines on Cross Highway was confirmed, Lindsay indicated, the trees were immediately removed.
The beetles found in Westport are significant because they are the first confirmed case of SPB insects attacking Eastern white pines in the state, according to the announcement.
Eastern white pines rank fifth on the list of tree species in Connecticut by volume.
The small Southern Pine Bark Beetle is the most economically destructive insect in the southeastern United States, the tree warden’s statement indicated. The beetle prefers “Hard Pines” such as pitch pine, red pine, Austrian pine, Japanese black pine and Scotch pine. SPB beetles also will attack Eastern white pine, spruce and occasionally hemlock.
Pines attempt to push the attacking beetles out with a flow of resin. Attacked trees are covered with small popcorn-like blobs of dried resin. If the attack is successful, the beetles lay eggs under the bark. The larvae then feed on the circulatory system of the tree, and kill the tree in one to two years.
Anyone who detects pines with the popcorn-shaped resin is asked to contact a local arborist or the Agricultural Experiment Station at email@example.com or call 203-974-8474.