Thursday, August 16, 2001

Killers of pines return to lake

The Associated Press

        PRESTONSBURG — The tiny bugs that have killed pine trees across Kentucky have turned up again around Dewey Lake, munching on evergreens that they didn't get around to last summer.

        Southern pine beetles have left a ring of dead trees around much of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' flood-control lake, which is home to Jenny Wiley State Resort Park and one of the most popular spots for houseboating in eastern Kentucky.

        Park naturalist Ron Vanover said visitors find it curious that insects no larger than a grain of rice can wipe out huge stands of mature pines.

        “A lot of tourists ask us what is going on with the pines that are dying,” Mr. Vanover said. “It's been a daily question. People are saddened by it.”

        Across eastern Kentucky, the insects have turned usually green pine forests to brown, killing up to 90 percent of the pine trees in the Daniel Boone National Forest. Many others have begun turning yellow, the telltale sign that they're also about to succumb to the beetles.

        Last year, the pests killed a stand of pines near the Corps of Engineers visitor center at Dewey Lake and left many others browned along the lake shores.

        The insects chew their way into the trees to lay their eggs. As those eggs hatch, the larvae chew their way along in the tree trunk. When the larvae reach insect stage, they fly to another tree and repeat the damage.

        Peggy Noel, a spokeswoman for the Corps of Engineers, said budgetary constraints have prevented the dead trees from being cut around Dewey Lake.

        “If there are trees posing a hazard to any of our visitors in recreation areas, camping areas or picnic areas, those trees will be taken down,” she said. “We don't have the funds to go out and harvest all those trees.”

        Sarah Sanders, forest health specialist for the Kentucky Division of Forestry, said aerial surveys have turned up some 3,000 pine groves where from 50 to 5,000 trees have died at the teeth of the beetles.

        The surveys have found that most of the beetle activity has ceased in southern and eastern Kentucky, though the infestation has only recently made its way to the western part of the state.

        “We're going to see some new activity,” Ms. Sanders said. “But the southern pine beetle problem is in its waning days. Let's face it, the food source is gone. They've eaten themselves out of house and home.”


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