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Southwest Mississippi seeing historic Southern pine beetle invasion

SOUTHWEST MISSISSIPPI — The Mississippi Forestry Commission says the first Southern pine beetle outbreak to hit southwest Mississippi in nearly 20 years has apparently doubled in size and shows no signs of slowing.

The Enterprise-Journal reports officials are urging landowners in Franklin, Amite, Wilkinson, Adams, Jefferson, Lincoln and Copiah counties to check for the beetles, which bore into living pine trees and can kill them.

The forestry commission says a recent survey of the Homochitto National Forest found about 500 active infestations, with another 160 located on private and school lands. That’s up from 250 found in late May and June.

Officials say current infestations are affecting pine trees of all ages and sizes.

Some of the spots were rapidly expanding in July, said John Riggins, an assistant professor of forest entomology at Mississippi State University who checked some of the Homochitto National Forest infestations in early July.

Forestry officials say pine beetle epidemics occur about every 15 years and last three to five years.

The beetles can cause stands of trees to fade and shed their needles.

The tell-tale sign is pitch tubes — dirty white balls of pine sap that have leaked out through the bark. Foresters say they look a bit like popcorn and are a quarter- to a half-inch across.

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