Menu Alabama Beetle Report for 2017

A severe drought in 2016 resulted in pronounced damage to Alabama forests. Especially in the northern areas of the state, devastating wildfires followed by dying trees were prominent. Hardwoods and pines alike were being affected. As a response, the Alabama Forestry Commission implemented aerial surveys in January, 2017, to assess drought-related pine mortality in the state. Over 400 beetle spots were detected. After verifying many spots from ground checks, most were caused by the Ips engraver beetle. There were, however, some infestations caused by the black turpentine beetle, deodar weevil, and southern pine beetle. By May, 2017, reports of beetle spots and other drought-related pests declined. Spots that were monitored were mainly remnants of inactive infestations.

During the following month, new reports emerged about the rapid expansion of pine mortality from beetle infestations.This time the concerned area of the state was central Alabama. Reconnaissance surveys revealed that most of the infestations were caused by the southern pine beetle. The Alabama Forestry Commission changed its focus from drought-related pests to detecting for southern pine beetle spots. Starting in June, 2017, selected counties in the state were surveyed for southern pine beetle infestations.

Ips engraver beetle attacks were more prevalent after the extended drought than attacks from other bark beetles.When adequate precipitation returned, as it did during the winter and spring seasons, the pines recovered and the number of large scale Ips engraver beetle infestations subsided. For a southern pine beetle outbreak, the contributing factors were more complicated. The drought was a factor which caused pines to become stressed and more susceptible to a beetle attack. Another factor was the mild winter that increased the survival of overwintering beetles. Overstocked stands and over-mature pines were additional contributing factors that increased the susceptibility of already compromised pine stands. When the temperatures increased during the summer months, so did the southern pine beetle activity.

By mid-summer, Alabama was experiencing heightened beetle infestations with over 100 detected spots in several counties. Montgomery County reached an epidemic level of infestations while a few others were quite close. Some southern pine beetle infestations were so aggressive that several small spots began to merge, resulting in one large infestation covering several acres. In all, the Alabama Forestry Commission surveyed 31 counties and 3 National Forests. There were 2,124 spots detected of various sizes, infesting 201,683 pines. The total value of pines destroyed is estimated to be $1.7 million.

The Alabama Forestry Commission is encouraging landowners to monitor pine stands, especially ones that are located in highly infested areas of the state. If you suspect that your stand is infested, please contact your local Alabama Forestry Commission office for information. If a southern pine beetle infestation is confirmed, please implement a management practice to halt the spread. An immediate response is highly recommended to prevent further pine mortality and economic loss.


Additional Resources:                                            Beetle Map
SPB Biology and Prevention | Control | Ips Bark Beetle