Driving down the Garden State Parkway over the last several years, it did not take a rocket scientist to figure out that there were less and less trees with greenery each and every year. According to the Star-Ledger, this beetle is only one-eighth of an inch long but so far this year has devastated over 14,000 acres of New Jersey’s treasured Pinelands.
In 2001 this tiny bug emerged as a pest in the Garden State and had only been spotted in the state once before 1938. The Pinelands Natural Reserve was preserved by Congress in 1978 and is home to 43 state-threatened or endangered species of wildlife.
According to the New Jersey Pinelands Commission, the Reserve represents 1.1 million acres in southern New Jersey which is about 22% of the state’s total land area. The Pinelands run through the counties of: Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, and Ocean. It is a patchwork of pine oak forests, streams and rivers, spacious farms, crossroad hamlets, and small towns stretched across southern New Jersey.
The southern pine beetle takes on all species of pine, but it prefers pitch, shortleaf, pond and loblolly, all native to South Jersey. They attack the trees by pairs of beetles boring into a pine to create a gallery in the inner bark. The female then lays her eggs; larvae emerge from the eggs to tunnel farther into the soft inner bark, and then settle in another layer of bark in the pupal stage. Eventually, they emerge as adults, chew their way out of the tree and fly off to start a new assault on another tree. This cycle can repeat itself seven times a year. During the infestation, all cycles of beetle can be found. Their devastation can kill a tree in as little as a three to four-week period. Once a forest has been attacked, it may be necessary to cut and burn infested woods.