Pine beetles have effect on Middle Georgia economy, safety

Storm damage from Hurricane Irma has attracted pine beetles/Matt Mackie

MACON, Ga. -- Pine beetles have made their way through Middle Georgia twice this year, and their effects have economic implications that are being felt across the region.

Earlier in the year, drought was a stressor for trees that caused them to be susceptible to the bugs. After a calming period in which conditions normalized, Hurricane Irma swept through and made the circumstances right again for pine beetles to settle in.

When pine trees are damaged, just as they were when Hurricane Irma came through Middle Georgia, they release a chemical that can attract pine beetles.

The beetles go into the tree, weaken it and can kill it after a period of time.

One way to tell if a tree has pine beetle damaged is to check if its pine needles are turning brown when they shouldn't be.

At a planning and zoning commission meeting in Macon on Monday, an application was approved to have an area of commercial timber cut down before the pine beetles ate away at it to the extent that the timber would no longer be valuable.

Due to the way trees are planted close together in commercial timber zones, pine beetles affect these areas more severely than trees in people's yards.

However, pine beetle damage can still occur and become a safety issue when the trees are weakened.

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