New pest that kills trees now in CT

A beetle that can overwhelm and kill healthy trees has been detected in Connecticut for the first time.

The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) announced March 31 that the Southern pine beetle (Dendroctonus frontalis) was detected in Wallingford on March 17 by staff members at CAES and DEEP.

The identification has been confirmed by officials of the U.S. Forest Service. This is the first detection of the pest in Connecticut.

Four sites in New Haven County and one each in Litchfield and Hartford counties have been confirmed positive for the beetle as well.

'Yet another forest inspect'

Southern pine beetle is native to the Southeastern United States and has long been a major pest of timber plantations in that region. The beetle can overwhelm and kill healthy trees.

State Entomologist Kirby C. Stafford said “it is disappointing to have yet another forest insect pest introduced into the state, but as this is a beetle native to the U.S., there will be no federal or state regulation on movement or disposal of infested trees or wood.”

At risk: Pitch pine, red pine, Scotch pine

Southern pine beetle predominately attacks “hard” pines. In Connecticut, vulnerable trees include red pine, Scotch pine and Austrian pine.

The native tree of most concern is pitch pine, according to a CAES press release. Pitch pine was once an abundant tree in the state, but due to development of its preferred habitat (the sand-plain ecosystem), it now remains in scattered patches throughout the state.

“Although pitch pine contributes little to the overall make up of Connecticut’s forests, its potential loss is of grave concern primarily due to the unique and highly valued habitat it provides for rare and endangered species dependent upon pine-oak sandy barrens,” said Christopher Martin, DEEP director of forestry.

While Southern pine beetle will attack eastern white pine, the state’s most abundant pine, this is a non-preferred host.

Damage in New Jersey, Long Island

Although Southern pine beetle is a species native to the American South, it has been slowly expanding its range northward in recent years.

The beetle has caused significant pine mortality in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey during the last decade. A large infestation was detected in the Pitch Pine Preserve in eastern Long Island in October 2014.

It is unclear how, or when, the beetle arrived in Connecticut. Trapping will begin in mid-April to determine beetle over-wintering success, stated the CAES release.

Visual surveys are underway throughout the state to determine the extent of the infestation.

Very small in size

The Southern pine beetle is a small, destructive beetle, about 2mm (or slightly less than 1/10th of an inch) in length. Wikipedia describes the pest as being about the size of a grain of rice.

Pine trees attempt to push the attacking beetles out with a flow of resin. Attacked trees are thus covered with small popcorn-like blobs of dried resin.
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Click below to read about another worrisome tree pest in CT, the emerald ash borer:
If the attack is successful, the beetles lay eggs under the bark, the larvae then feed on the circulatory system of the tree, and kill the tree in one to two years.

Anyone who observes pine trees with the popcorn resin should contact CAES by email at or by phone at 203 974-8474.