On the Lookout for New Insect Invader

BugThe southern pine beetle, which is native to the southern United States, spread north to New Jersey in 2001, and was discovered in pine forests on Long Island in 2014. This year it has been found in central Connecticut.

A team of University of Rhode Island entomologists has set traps at conservation lands throughout western Rhode Island to watch for it—if it’s not here yet, scientists say, it is probably on its way. According to URI entomologist Lisa Tewksbury ’82, Ph.D. ’14, the blackish beetles are just 2 to 4 millimeters in size, and they feed under the bark of pine trees. In their southern range, they infest loblolly and short-leafed pines, but in Connecticut and Long Island they are infesting pitch and red pines. Infected trees respond to the beetles by trying to push out the eggs and larvae with resin. It looks like popcorn balls of dried resin mixed with sawdust coming out of the trunk. If you see something similar, email a photo to Tewksbury at lisat@uri.edu or call her at 401.874.2750.

“Because the beetles are so tiny, they are extremely difficult to see,” said Tewksbury, who is collaborating on the project with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.

Photos: Erich G. Vallery, USDA Forest Service, SRS-4552, Bugwood.org