Native to the U.S. and New England, red pine, Pinus resinosa, populates many areas and has also been widely planted for its aesthetic appeal and to increase diversity of the white pine, Pinus strobus, dominated landscape, adding to soil conservation, wildlife mast and habitat and protecting other species from wind. Recently, however, red pines have, true to their name, begun to turn red. In 2012 Forest Health Specialists with the New Hampshire Division of Forests and Lands determined that the trees are infested with an invasive, exotic pest; the red pine scale, Matsuciccus resinosae. And less than a handful of years later the insect has attacked acres upon acres of red pines, forcing land managers and agencies across the region to take drastic measures in order to save the trees.
The red pine scale is native to Japan, and it is thought to have first arrived in the states in 1939. It was first identified in Connecticut in 1946 and since has spread to several northeast states. Since its discovery in New Hampshire in 2012, red pine scale has affected at least 10 different towns throughout the state.
At about the size and color of a fleck of pepper, the white, cottony filaments produced by the red pine scale will be more noticeable than the insects themselves. Using their piercing, sucking mouth-parts they pull nutrients out through the bark. The first signs are chlorotic needles which will then turn yellow to red; damage will first appear at the bottom, then spread upwards towards the crown. If a mass infestation occurs the tree will succumb usually within 3 years.
With neither natural predators nor cost-effective pesticides control of this pest is difficult. No natural predators exist in this country and introducing those from its native lands have not proven useful. And although there are some pesticides which have worked, it is a very expensive solution to an ever growing problem. Officials have resorted to “sanitation cuts” in order to effectively control this pest and contain the spread. This means cutting down all of the dead and dying trees within an affected area, killing all the insects and eliminating safety concerns. Trees are usually chipped or bucked up and left on site to decay. Large-scale sanitation culling of red pine communities has already occurred at the Urban Forestry Center in Portsmouth, The Merrimack River Outdoor Education and Conservation Area in Concord and is currently ongoing at Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown.