ACADIA NAT’L PARK — Dead, dying or ultimately doomed is the condition of many if not all of the red pine trees in and around the park.
But the good news is that there are relatively few stands of red pines on Mount Desert Island.
The trees are under attack from a tiny, nearly microscopic-size insect known as “red pine scale,” which starves trees of nutrients.
There is no treatment for red pine scale, members of the Acadia staff said at a panel discussion on the topic at the Northeast Harbor Library recently. But property owners and gardeners can help stop it from spreading.
“Don’t move plant materials, whether they are in the form of firewood or landscaping materials,” said Judy Hazen Connery, the park’s natural resources specialist.
“If you have a family member who wants to give you a rare cutting and they live in Maryland or Connecticut, just say ‘no.’ And spread the word and help your neighbors understand this.”
Connery said everyone can help stop or at least slow the spread of red pine scale by reporting trees that appear to be infected.
“Keep your eyes and ears open because we are all stewards of this precious island, and the National Park Service can’t do it alone,” she said.
Over the past decade, red pine scale has moved into Maine from the south and west. In 2007, park staff noticed red pines starting to die on Acadia Mountain and Norumbega Mountain. Acadia didn’t have a botanist on staff at the time, so park officials asked the Maine Forest Service to take a look.
“They examined our red pines and didn’t see any scale insects,” Connery said.
Then in 2014, a gardener on MDI sent some red pine cuttings to the Maine Forest Service, which confirmed the presence of scale. It was the first definitive identification of the disease in Maine. But it was already clear that red pine scale was pretty well distributed across MDI.
Many people first became aware of it about two years ago when red pines along Sargeant Drive began dying.
“We’re continuing to watch what’s happening,” Hazen said. “We want to see how it’s affecting our forests.”
But Kate Miller, a National Park Service forest ecologist for the Northeast region who is based at Acadia, said that because of the relatively small number of red pines on MDI, “The overall impacts [of red pine scale] on forest health in Acadia are pretty minimal.”