MANORVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – One of the most destructive pests that have already ravaged forests in New Jersey are now threatening Long Island.
The buss of chainsaws and “timber” calls in the pine forest of Long Island signal the launch of a war. The target: a tiny beetle.
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, the southern pine beetle made its first-ever appearance in New York State last fall in Long Island parks. Now, the State Department of Environmental Conservation said the infestation is far more widespread.
“We have identified 1,000-plus acres and 100 locations,” the DEC’s Rob Marsh said.
And it’s not just any 1,000 acres—it’s acres of infested trees in the core of Long Island’s Pine Barrens — pitch pines needed to protect Long Island’s purest drinking water supply.
“This is an absolute disaster. This forest has been here for 12,000 years. We have fought off over development and it’s a little, bitty beetle that’s threatening to bring it down,” Dick Amper with the Long Island Pine Barrens Society said.
On Friday, DEC crews fanned out in Hampton Bays, cutting down 14 acres of pine trees.
The beetles are hard to see and hide behind bark, choking it of nutrients. However, you can see signs of the trees fighting back with clumps of resin.
“This is being treated very similar to a wild fire. It behaves in some ways like a wild fire, it spreads in one location and spreads outward,” Marsh said.
Foresters said chopping the trees down is the best defense and time is of the essence. By Spring, beetles will fly and the healthy trees will have to be cut down too, as a buffer.
The freezing cold actually helps foresters, Gusoff reported. Some of the beetles will die off in single-digit temperatures. But experts say the cold is not enough to eradicate the beetles and spare thousands of trees.
The infestation could also spread to private property. If you suspect an infestation, you should report it to the New York State DEC.