Articles by

Joseph Pinciaro

05/04/15 8:00am
Southern pine beetles have been confirmed in the above locations so far, officials say. (Eric Hod illustration)

Southern pine beetles have been confirmed in the above locations so far, officials say. (Eric Hod illustration)

The southern pine beetle, as it turns out, isn’t all that southern anymore.

The voracious and highly destructive insect — which decimates millions of cubic feet of timber across the country each year — has been making a slow expansion north over the past couple of decades. The beetle arrived in New Jersey in 2001, crossed the Great Egg Harbor River south of Atlantic City in 2008 and arrived on Long Island this past fall.

Now, authorities are trying to figure out how to contain the spread of the pest in the Pine Barrens and beyond. So far, it has infected trees at least a dozen state and county parks across Suffolk County (see map, above), not to mention on private land.

“We assume that all in all, we’ve lost a good thousand acres,” said John Wernet, regional forester with the Department of Environmental Conservation. The DEC, in conjunction with other agencies, is conducting aerial and ground surveys to determine the full extent of the damage. Results are expected in the next couple of months.


The levels of infestation are bound to affect the health of the Pine Barrens for years to come.

“It’s not possible to eliminate,” said Kevin Dodds, an entomologist with the U.S. Forest Service. “I hear a lot of people use the word ‘control,’ but ‘control’ implies you have the ability to knock things back. It’s better to look at this as managing it.”


A few years ago, Rob Corcory, who had retired from a 37-year career with the New Jersey State Forestry Services Department, was asked to return as the state’s southern pine beetle project manager.

By then, however, scientists estimated that it was just too late to stymie the insect’s northward march.

“We tried to keep it in the southern half of the state, but it started creeping north. Everything was below the Mullica River [in New Jersey] until a year or two,” Mr. Corcory said.

R0430_beetle_C.jpgScientists have attributed the beetle’s northern migration to climate change. The coldest night of winter in New Jersey is now seven to eight degrees warmer, on average, than it was 50 years ago, said Matthew Ayres, professor of biological sciences at Dartmouth College. And warmer temperatures at night have allowed the beetle to survive the farther north it goes.

On Long Island, temperatures recorded this past winter at the National Weather Service in Upton dropped to -4 degrees on three nights in February, which helped suppress the beetle’s spread this spring and “bought us some time” to fight this year’s infestation, said Mr. Wernet of the DEC.

It remains unclear exactly how the beetle arrived on Long Island, but its presence has now been confirmed as far north as Hartford, Conn.

It’s been speculated the beetles washed ashore on Long Island during Superstorm Sandy, Mr. Dodds said. Or it “could have just spread in smaller infestations,” he said.

What is clear is that they’re here.

Caption: Researchers from Dartmouth College and the New Jersey Forest Service discuss southern pine beetle management in the New Jersey Pinelands. (Courtesy: Matt Ayres/Dartmouth College)

05/04/15 7:59am

Trees attacked by southern pine beetles go through three stages before the beetles move on:

R0430_beetle_side1_C.jpgFresh attacks: Females initiate the attack on the tree, releasing pheremones once a suitable host is found. Pine trees release extra resin as a defense mechanism against the beetles, though male and female beetles work together to clear away the resin and enter the bark — usually through the crevices. After southern pine beetles bore into the trees, reddish-white dust can be found on and around the tree.


Faders: S-shaped galleries are formed inside the tree, where more beetles later hatch and create new tubes. The beetle also transmits a fungus that stops water from circulating within the tree. Foliage starts to fade in color.


R0430_beetle_side3_C.jpgVacated: Beetles born inside the tree create exit holes, allowing a mass emergence from the tree. The browning of foliage continues and bark becomes loose and peels away easily. Abundant white sawdust from the entrance and exit holes often accumulates at the base of vacated trees.

Source: Department of Environmental Conservation

04/30/15 12:43pm
Riverhead Country Fair 2014

2014’s Riverhead Country Fair. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

The idea of limiting alcohol consumption to beer gardens at public fairs in Riverhead has died just days after the first seed was planted.

The board said this morning that it will now take a scaled back approach to regulating alcohol at local festivals, one week after  a majority of Town Board members supported the concept.


04/24/15 8:00am


Saturday’s opening day ceremony will be Tony Sammartano’s last as Riverhead Little League president. After about 15 years at the helm, organizing an activity that hundreds and hundreds of kids have had the opportunity to enjoy, it’s time for him to move on to greener pastures.

Problem is, it’s not exactly clear who, if anyone, is going to run the league after Tony and his wife, Jennifer — another of the league’s five board members — step down. (more…)

04/14/15 8:00am
The Hulse Landing Road fire house is in need of upgrades, district officials say. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch file)

The Hulse Landing Road fire house is in need of upgrades, district officials say. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch file)

About two years after a $4.75 million bond measure aimed at improving its dated Hulse Landing Road fire station was rejected by voters, the Wading River Fire District is officially going back to the drawing board, holding a public meeting next Monday to start making up new plans with interested members of the public.

In December of 2012, 198 voters opposed the bond measure while 126 favored it, nixing a plan to knock down the 5,100-square foot station that was built in 1982 and replace it with a new 11,500-square foot one. (more…)

04/09/15 8:00am
Students leaving Roanoke Avenue Elementary School to board the buses Monday afternoon. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Students leaving Roanoke Avenue Elementary School to board the buses Monday afternoon. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

“They couldn’t have made a worse decision than what we have in our hands right now.”

For someone who has been a vocal critic of New York State’s public education system’s high-stakes testing model, which has been enacted for the past few years, Greenport and Southold Superintendent David Gamberg’s comments Tuesday about next year’s state education budget came as especially critical.

While the budget adopted April 1 increases education funding by over 6 percent statewide, it has been met with heavy pushback from educators near and far as Gov. Andrew Cuomo continues attempting to overhaul education accountability throughout the state. (more…)