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Southern Pine Beetle Stakes Its Claim In N.C.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The pine trees in your back yard may be suffering due to a destructive insect that is moving across the state.

According to experts, the recent drought has increased the southern pine beetle population. They have already destroyed millions of dollars worth of trees.

Roy Poole, owner of Poole Tree Service, said he gets two to three calls per week about trees infected with the insect.

"If you see a pine tree with needles turning brown, go ahead and call someone immediately and diagnose it," said Poole.

Don Rogers, of the

North Carolina Forest Service

, said for the past three years, the state has been in an epidemic made worse from drought stress.

"One of the first tell-tale signs of activity by the southern pine beetle would be pine trees in a group of two or three. Maybe that the crown is beginning to change color from green to maybe off-colored yellow, maybe even a yellowish color," Rogers said.

The beetle activity has spread into half of North Carolina, costing over $15 million in lost timber in 2001.

Experts emphasized that pine needles falling from a tree does not necessarily mean a tree is infected.

"The southern pine beetle is nondescript looking, small and one-eighth of an inch or less. You wouldn't know it from any other little hard-shelled beetle crawling around in the woods," said Rogers.

The state found almost 1 million infected trees in 2001. North Carolina has recently initiated a program to help landowners identify and remove infected trees.


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