The Southern Pine Beetle is 2-4 mm in size.

The Southern Pine Beetle is 2-4 mm in size. / University of Florida


An insect native to Georgia is threatening the state's $30 billion forest industry. It's the first outbreak of Southern Pine Beetles in two decades. 

Experts say their numbers are only expected to increase through the summer.

There have been at least 54 outbreaks along the St. Mary’s River since the summer began. Ten is average.

 Officials with the Georgia Forestry Commission discuss a recent outbreak of Southern Pine Beetles in Georgia.

Chip Bates of the Georgia Forestry Commission says last winter’s warm temperatures are to blame.

"When we have no winter and the populations build through the wintertime we basically get these outbreaks," Bates explained.

The beetle carries a blue fungus that destroys the tree’s ability to circulate water, eventually killing it. The color also stains the bark decreasing its value.

Once infected, that pine and those immediately surrounding it must be cut down to stop the infestation from spreading.

According to Georgia Forestry Commission report, over the past 40 years, the insects have killed over $254 million worth of trees. 

Georgia Forestry’s, Risher Willard said "The forest industry supports 129,329 jobs. When you rank it by compensation, forestry ranks number one."

About 20 years ago Northern Georgia experienced a beetle epidemic with 2000 infected areas.

Experts suggest keeping tree lots to about 500 Pines per acre. Overpopulation deprives them of nutrients and leaves the them vulnerable to attack.