SOUTHERN PINE BEETLE ACTIVITY INCREASES IN FLORIDA
By Jeffrey Eickwort, Forest Health Section Supervisor
Southern pine beetle (Dendroctonus frontalis, or SPB) can be one of the most destructive insects in southeastern pine forests, but in most years it is rarely encountered. The last major SPB outbreak years in Florida occurred from 1999 to 2002. At the peak of that outbreak, 2,892 infestations (or “spots”) were documented in a single year, killing pines across nearly 17,600 acres. By comparison, only 175 SPB spots (covering a total of 1,129 acres) were detected in Florida during the entire thirteen years that followed. As SPB outbreaks have historically occurred on a 7-12 year cycle, it seems that our state is “overdue” for an outbreak year.
The SPB activity for 2016 got off to a very early start. The first active spots were found in January, following a period of unusually warm winter temperatures. As we’ve moved into the spring and summer, new spots have been detected in new areas at an increasing rate. As of this writing, 105 infestations have been documented, covering over 420 acres in twelve counties, and more possible locations are being investigated. The recent temperatures have been ideal for rapid SPB development, which peaks at 85-90° F. County Foresters, Pilots, Forest Health Section staff, and other FFS field personnel are actively conducting aerial surveys and ground checks, and landowners in many locations are conducting suppression/salvage harvests. See current map here.
Although this year’s numbers are still very small compared to 2000-2002, they raise the question: does the increase signal the beginning of a new outbreak period? That is still impossible to predict with any confidence, because much is still unknown about the factors that influence the timing of SPB outbreaks. The best science-based prediction tool available is the annual SPB Spring Pheromone Trapping Survey, which estimates the likelihood of SPB activity in the coming year, based on the February-March abundance of SPB as compared to the predatory beetles which feed on them. The Forest Health Section already has plans to increase the number of trap locations for this survey in 2017.
When SPB activity is occurring, there are well-known factors that influence the risk of losses at the stand level. Densely-stocked pine stands (>80 ft2/acre basal area), particularly consisting of mature loblolly or shortleaf pine, are most at risk. However, other pine species and age classes are often infested when the local SPB population is high. In the region of North Florida where SPB has historically occurred, the FFS Southern Pine Beetle Assistance and Prevention Program offers cost-share reimbursements and incentive payments to private landowners who conduct practices which can prevent losses due to SPB, such as thinning of overstocked stands, prescribed burning, and planting less-susceptible pine species (longleaf or slash). This program is currently accepting applications through July 29. In Florida, SPB activity has never been documented south of the natural range of loblolly pine, which extends down to Pasco and Orange Counties.
SOUTHERN PINE BEETLE ASSISTANCE AND PREVENTION PROGRAM NOW ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS
Applications for the program will be accepted until July 29, 2016.
The Southern Pine Beetle Assistance and Prevention Program is offered to eligible non-industrial private forest landowners by the Florida Forest Service (FFS) through temporary grants from the USDA Forest Service.
Periodic southern pine beetle (SPB) outbreaks in Florida have resulted in millions of cubic feet of pine timber killed on thousands of acres. The goal of this program is to minimize SPB damage in Florida by helping forest landowners conduct management practices that can make their pine stands less susceptible to this destructive insect pest. Forest management practices such as thinning, prescribed burning, other competition control, and use of less-susceptible pine species can improve the health of pine stands and decrease their likelihood of developing SPB infestations.
For more information on the SPB Prevention program, see the SPB Prevention Program web page and contact your Florida Forest Service County Forester office.
COGONGRASS TREATMENT COST-SHARE PROGRAM NOW ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS
Applications for the program will be accepted until July 29, 2016.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has announced that the Florida Forest Service is now accepting applications for the Cogongrass Treatment Cost-Share Program. Applications for the program will be accepted through July 29, 2016.
Cogongrass is an invasive, non-native grass that occurs in Florida and several other southeastern states. Cogongrass infestations negatively affect tree regeneration, growth and survival, as well as wildlife habitat, native plant diversity, forage quality and property values. They also increase the risk of wildfires and alter fire behavior. “Left untreated, invasive cogongrass can spread quickly, causing long-term problems,” said State Forester Jim Karels. “In addition to reducing the productivity and value of forests and rangelands, it can greatly increase the risk and severity of wildfire.”
The Cogongrass Treatment Cost-Share Program, which is supported through a grant from the USDA Forest Service, is offered for non-industrial private lands in all Florida counties. It provides reimbursement of 50 percent of the cost to treat cogongrass infestations with herbicide for two consecutive years.
To obtain an application form or to learn more about program requirements, contact a local Florida Forest Service county forester or visit the Cogongrass Treatment Cost-Share Program webpage. All qualifying applications will be evaluated and ranked for approval.
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