05/04/15 8:00am
05/04/2015 8:00 AM
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 THREE STAGES OF A SOUTHERN PINE BEETLE INFESTATION


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.”

CLIMBING NORTH

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.

R0430_beetle_side2_C.jpg

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

03/24/15 5:44pm
03/24/2015 5:44 PM
Councilman George Gabrielsen inspecting the material at EPCAL. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Councilman George Gabrielsen inspecting the material at EPCAL. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

About a month after test results showed material dumped at Enterprise Park at Calverton contained traces of DDT, asbestos and other chemicals, the town learned this week that the state Department of Environmental Conservation is recommending complete removal of the material from the town-owned land. (more…)

03/18/15 12:05pm
03/18/2015 12:05 PM
Opponents of the Riverhead Terminal expansion on Sound Shore Road Monday afternoon (from left): Northville Beach Civic Association president Neil Krupnick, Ann Weiser, Greg Genovese of the Highlands Club community, John Cullen and Dave Gruner. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Opponents of the Riverhead Terminal expansion on Sound Shore Road Monday afternoon (from left): Northville Beach Civic Association president Neil Krupnick, Ann Weiser, Greg Genovese of the Highlands Club community, John Cullen and Dave Gruner. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Safety. Traffic. The environment.

Residents of the Northville area of Riverhead and beyond have been concerned about all three ever since United Riverhead Terminal Inc. first appeared before the Riverhead Town Board in September with plans to expand its sprawling petroleum storage facility alongside Long Island Sound.

Over the last few months, some have harkened back more than 50 years, to the time when people then living in neighboring Northville Beach fought but failed to stop construction of the massive string of tanks that punctuates the otherwise wooded and rural landscape.  (more…)

03/11/15 12:28pm
03/11/2015 12:28 PM
A mute swan mother with her cygnets in East Marion last year. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder, file)

A mute swan mother with her cygnets in East Marion last year. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder, file)

A newly revised state Department of Environmental Conservation plan to deal with mute swan populations in the state would focus on non-lethal management of their numbers on Long Island, only calling for lethal methods as a “last resort.”

That’s still too often for some, including state Senator Ken LaValle.  (more…)

11/07/14 12:01pm
11/07/2014 12:01 PM
Gary Joyce of Aquebogue (left) and Ed Densieski of Riverhead sort through a catch. They said they often throw away more empty scallop shells than healthy keepers. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Gary Joyce of Aquebogue (left) and Ed Densieski of Riverhead sort through a catch. They said they often throw away more empty scallop shells than healthy keepers. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

Early Monday morning, under cover of darkness and beneath a star-lit sky, Ed Densieski and Gary Joyce boarded their custom-outfitted boat, dressed head to toe in vibrant all-weather gear.

Unfazed by the blustery chill, the pair headed out through Southold Bay, with Brick Cove Marina at their backs.

It was the start of their 16th scalloping season and, as Mr. Densieski said, “There’s only one opening day.”  (more…)

09/18/14 2:00pm
09/18/2014 2:00 PM
Deer in the backyard of a Southold home. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder, file)

Deer in the backyard of a Southold home. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder, file)

Several farmers who were previously unable to receive deer damage permits to hunt on their property offseason now have the green light to do so.

Arising as an unintended consequence from a lawsuit aimed at a controversial deer cull, a state Supreme Court judge put a halt to new DDPs this March but temporarily lifted the order against the state Department of Environmental Conservation last week.  (more…)

08/31/14 11:00am
08/31/2014 11:00 AM
Canada geese in the Peconic River just south of Riverhead's West Main Street. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch file)

Canada geese in the Peconic River just south of Riverhead’s West Main Street. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch file)

In an effort to spur forward movement on lots along the Peconic River, Riverhead Town is expected to apply for a special Department of Environmental Conservation classification for acreage on West Main Street. (more…)