Over two years ago I told you about the threat that pine bark beetles pose to the New Jersey pine barrens. Now it seems that this highly destructive pest is spreading throughout New England. Many distinctive ecosystems, including stands of pines along the coast from Long Island to Cape Cod, are likely to be destroyed. The problem is climate change. The beetle is endemic throughout the South, where good forest management practices have kept it under control. Those good practices are the same as we all should practice in our gardens: remove diseased plant material immediately, and avoid overcrowding of woody plants.
The beetles couldn’t move north until recently, because they can’t survive winters where nighttime temperatures dip lower than -8 degrees Fahrenheit. But because of climate change, temperatures rarely go that low anymore, even in New England. So the beetle is now widespread throughout coastal and even inland New England, and scientists expect that it will soon spread to the midwest and even to Canada.