A Southern pine beetle has found its way to Maine, potentially endangering the ecosystem of the state’s forests, scientists say.

The Southern pine beetle Photo from University of New Hampshire collections

The beetle was discovered in Waterboro last fall, a long way from its home in the South of the U.S. where it has destroyed millions of acres of pine forests, Maine Public Radio reported.

A single pine beetle can be half the size of a grain of rice, but its infestations kill thousands of forests annually and could harm New England’s pitch pines community, said Caroline Kanaskie, a doctoral student from the University of New Hampshire who discovered the beetle in southern Maine last fall.

Maine state entomologist Tom Schmeelk shared concerns about Maine’s pine barrens, which are “a globally rare ecosystem,” he said.

The beetle favors hard pine trees like red, pitch and jack to infest. Schmeelk said that means pitch and jack pine communities throughout Maine’s coast are also at risk.

University of New Hampshire forest health scientist, Jeff Garnas said the beetle was bound to travel north from the South as winters get less severe. The recent discovery in Maine and New Hampshire is indicative of a new issue for the Northeast in the future.

State officials are urging people to report infestations on the citizen science app and website EDDMapS when they spot them, the radio station reported.

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