Earlier this winter, McClellan staff and Alabama Forest Commission (AFC) representatives were cruising various timber stands throughout the former fort. As they performed their inspections, they began to notice clusters of dead and dying southern pine trees throughout the 2000+ acre cantonment area. Upon closer examination, it was confirmed that several stands were infested with Ips beetles.
McClellan is not alone when it comes to the invasion of this aggressive pine beetle. Experts postulate that last year’s long drought and warmer than normal winter stressed many pine stands throughout the region. This resulting stress provided an opportunity for the Ips beetle to infiltrate the pine bark and begin killing the trees. On McClellan specifically, grounds crew noted that the younger tree farms which were planted here less than 20-25 years ago were especially susceptible to Ips beetle attacks.
Larger than their cousins the Southern Pine Beetle, Ips beetles tend to attack the trees high up in the branches so typical signs of pine beetle presence such as bore holes and sawdust trails around the base of the tree are not visible. Often the first sign of trouble is when a tree’s pine needles quickly turn reddish brown. Once this happens, the damage is done and the tree must be quickly harvested before the bark begins slipping off of the tree. When a cluster of trees are under attack by the Ips beetle it is important to quickly remove the affected trees and, depending on the density of the stand, sometimes a perimeter of healthy trees as well to try and stop further infestation.
To date, approximately 80 acres of timber have been affected by the Ips beetle infestation on McClellan. Logging teams are currently scheduled to finish up some tree stands at the north end of McClellan this week. This project is scheduled to be complete no later than March 30th.