SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - It's one of the most destructive insects native to South Georgia, and it can wreak havoc on the pine tree crop.
The Georgia Forestry Commission says there hasn't been an outbreak of southern pine beetle cases in the last 20 years, but now, unfortunately, it's back on their radar.
Since March, the Forestry Commission has investigated 46 outbreaks, and while those affected areas are no bigger that the square footage of your average kitchen, it's still very concerning.
The pine tree crop is a billion-dollar industry in Georgia, and one that creates thousands of jobs. Anytime there is a threat to the cash crop of the logging industry, the Georgia Forestry Commission takes it very seriously. From the sky, they identify problem spots, and then contact the property owners to let them know there's an outbreak.
The beetle burrows into the tree and carries with it a fungus that stops the trees ability to move water throughout the trunk. The owner then has to physically cut down trees surrounding the affected area to create a boarder, before the southern pine beetle can spread.
"As we have more problems with the southern pine beetle, that's one that moves just like a wildfire. Once it starts in a pine plantation, the female produces a pheromone that actually invites that males to come in. They breed and move onto the next tree," said Chip Bates, Georgia Forestry Commission, Forest Health Coordinator.
The existing outbreaks Bates referred to are in McIntosh County.