Good news for forest landowners – Alabama is predicted to have a low number of southern pine beetle (SPB) infestations in 2020, according to the Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC). More specifically, high risk counties are expected to have no more than six to nine SPB spots. The overall prediction for the state is that Alabama has a 16 percent chance of having any SPB spots this active season.
“Southern pine beetle is one of the most destructive forest pests in the southern and eastern United States,” said Dana Stone, AFC Forest Health Specialist. “They will attack most species of pines, but the most vulnerable are dense, mature stands of loblolly, shortleaf, and/or Virginia pines,” Stone continued. “The location and intensity of SPB outbreaks varies from year to year, and infestations are based on many factors. Condition of the pine stand is one factor. Other contributing factors are extended adverse environmental conditions and SPB population levels.”
Since 2018, an updated analytical model has been used to predict infestation trends more accurately. Each year, a spring SPB pheromone survey is conducted to monitor population levels. Several southeastern states participate in the annual survey, including Alabama. Traps are deployed in several counties throughout each state, generally from late February to early March, and remain in place from four to six weeks. Baited with a lure – SPB pheromone (frontalin and endo-brevicomin) and a polyethylene blue sleeve (primarily alpha-pinene) – the traps are checked once a week by retrieving the insects from the traps’ collection cups and counting the number of adult southern pine beetles as well as their predators, clerid beetles. After the survey period, the traps are removed from the site. The results of the number of SPBs and clerid beetles caught each week are used to obtain population levels and predict infestation trends for each state.
The 2020 survey data was collected and submitted by AFC and other agency employees in Alabama and analyzed by researchers from Bates College, Dartmouth College, and the USDA Forest Service. This analysis does not include data from the National Forests in Alabama, so the final report is not complete. While a preliminary summary was determined for the region, this information is by no means absolute confirmation of what will occur across the state.