PLYMOUTH (CBS) – Dead and dying pine trees are falling victim to a voracious pest across New England. At a time when some bugs are wiping out trees in neighborhoods, this latest threat now is affecting some forest land, making once luscious landscapes look like winter.

Ken Gooch is a detective but he doesn’t hunt down criminals. He tracks down bugs and diseases that kill trees.

What concerns DCR arborist Gooch these days is a microscopic bug that’s killing entire stands of red pines.

The bug is called red pine scale and it’s wreaking havoc across Massachusetts.

“It’s devastating, specifically to red pine trees,” Gooch said. “It’s very quick once it’s in a stand. It can kill the trees in three to four years.”

There’s no real predator that feeds on the scales so they’re free to kill trees by the thousands.

In Myles Standish State Forest, officials have already cut down 500 acres of red pines, mainly to prevent forest fires, according to fire warden Mike Marquardt.

“It’s a real difficult task to manage fire, wildland fire, in this environment with these dead snags standing,” Marquardt said. “It becomes a firefighter safety issue.”

The bugs don’t kill white pines or pitch pines, just the tall, slender red pines.

At Crosswinds Golf Club in Plymouth, staff members are concerned about wildfires created by the pines nearby. “It’s a fire hazard, all that wood standing up it’s all fuel once it goes,” said club spokesman Stathe Paganis.

In parts of New York and Connecticut they’ve already cut down hundreds of acres of red pine to keep the bug from spreading.



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