In Mississippi, forest restoration crews are focused on eliminating the southern pine beetle, an insect the size of a grain of rice that is threatening to destroy tens of thousands of acres of pine stands on four U.S. Forest Service ranger districts and nearby private forests. Historically, the southern pine beetle has proved to be the most destructive forest pest in the South, both in economic and ecological impacts.
Forest health officials have classified the level of infestation as a severe outbreak. “This outbreak is unprecedented in scope with beetle activity progressing at breakneck speed with infestations rapidly escalating in size, coalescing and decimating whole plantations,” said Jim Meeker, an entomologist with the Forest Service.
Without active beetle suppression, large-scale pine mortality occurs, which destroys endangered species habitat, threatens recreation, infects timber and reduces property values. This infestation could damage as much as 25,000 acres of pine stands in Mississippi.