Destructive invasive insect discovered on Mt. Desert Island | News

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Destructive invasive insect discovered on Mt. Desert Island

MOUNT DESERT ISLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The Maine Forest Service said property owners and nature lovers need to be on the look-out for an invasive insect recently discovered in Maine.

A gardener on Mount Desert Island sent a sample in to the Maine Forest Service earlier this month hoping for more information about what is killing red pine trees in and around Northeast Harbor. After inspecting the sample and surveying the area, entomologists discovered several hundred acres of dead or dying red pine trees on the island due to an infestation of red pine scale.

Red pine scale is native to Japan, but the insect has been found in the Northeast since the mid-1940's. Scientists believe it has spread north slowly because it likes colder temperatures. The invasive insect has severely damaged red pine stands in Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and New Hampshire.

"If you have red pine, or if red pine is important to you, red pine scale is a very serious pest," said Forest Entomologist Allison Kanoti.

The insect can quickly kill red pine trees, but doesn't seem to impact other native tree species. Entomologists believe it can also be found in non-native landscape plantings like Japanese pines.

Kanoti said there is little they can do to stop its spread or to protect trees from being killed.

"There aren't a lot of management tools out there," she said. "For a forest land owner, salvage harvest is one of the better options for managing it. Unfortunately, that is the case."

The small insect can be detected by looking for small, woolly, white tufts on the underside of limbs. The Forest Service said they do not know how widespread the infestation is, so they are looking to the public for help.

"If you do see it, or see symptoms of the damage, then we'd like you to report it to us so we can look and see if it is red pine scale, or one of the diseases or a combination of factors," said Kanoti.

Report any suspected red pine scale damage by contacting the Maine Forest Service's Insect and Disease Laboratory.

The Maine Forest Service said this discovery serves as a good reminder that transporting live plants or firewood long distances can help spread invasive insects and diseases.