Biting Cold Could Exterminate Tree Pest

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -

The constant waves of cold air keeping New Jersey in the deep freeze this winter may be miserable for its residents, but may actually be a boon in the fight against one of the state’s most persistent pests — the Southern pine beetle.

The bug has been devastating 30,000 acres of the Pine Barrens, choking trees to death as they burrow deep into their trunks. But temperatures reached minus 10 degrees in northern portions last month, leading to hopes that some of the population may have died off and could be more easily managed come spring.

What’s more, ricocheting temperatures — sometimes changing more than 60 degrees in 24 hours — may provide even more help, building and melting ice crystals inside the insects that could destroy their cells over time.

“The magic number for the pine beetle is minus 8 degrees,” said Jim Fredericks of the National Pest Management Association. “That, in and of itself, will kill some of those off.”

These past few weeks have been the first time since 1994 that temperatures have reached levels that could kill off a substantial number of the beetles.