HAMPTON BAYS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Hundreds of trees infested with pine beetles are set to be cut down in Suffolk County.

The insects, so small they fit on the tip of a fingernail, have badly damaged many trees in the Pine Barrens, WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reported.

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“They kill it by just sheer numbers, so essentially they girdle it, the tree,” said John Wernet, regional forecaster with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. “So the tree lost any ability to bring water and nutrients back off because there’s just thousands of beetles.”

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Wernet said crews will begin cutting down the trees Monday in Hampton Bays. He said that by chopping down the trees, the beetles will die.

“What you’re trying to do is protect the ones (trees) that have not been infested by it,” he said.

Wernet said in the next few weeks officials will determine exactly how many other trees need to be removed.

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Although it’s not known how the southern beetles came to Long Island, Wernet said one theory is they arrived during Hurricane Irene in 2011.