Mission: Red Pine Scale

Photo copyright Bill Helprin, MCHT
Photo copyright Bill Helprin, MCHT
Photo copyright Allison Kanoti, MDACF
Photo copyright Bill Helprin, MCHT

Research Question

Where is red pine in Maine? Where is red pine scale in Maine? Is it responsible for the decline in red pine trees?

You're Invited

Scientists have observed a decline in red pine trees recently. One killer of red pine is red pine scale, Matsucoccus matsumurae. Scientists at Maine Forest Service as well as Maine Coast Heritage Trust, the University of New Hampshire, and the National Park Service are interested in where red pine scale is.

Red pine scale was first found in 1947 in Connecticut. Since then it has spread to Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and most recently New Hampshire (2012) and Maine (2014). Infected stands can be killed off in as little as three years and it can spread quickly. Right now, very little is known about red pine scale’s distribution in Maine.

Scientists need your help to be on the look out for infected stands of red pine!

Mission Steps

  1. Print the species ID cards for native red pine, invasive red pine scale and an upland survey datasheet.
  2. Look for red pine stands that have brown or red branches at the bottom of the tree, moving up to the top of the crown. Confirm you have found red pine by using your red pine ID card.
  3. Look for signs of red pine scale on branches or the base of needle clusters.
  4. If you find a branch you suspect is infected, bag it and take it with you. CAUTION! Do not introduce any wood or debris from the area to a new patch of red pine! Red pine scale is highly contagious. Freezing it is a good way to preserve the specimen safely.
  5. If you have a microscope get magnified photos of the flocculence and scale bugs if you can.
  6. If you don't have a microscope, get the best close up photo you can of any flocculence.
  7. Post your data, FOUND or NOT FOUND for both red pine scale and red pine. Be sure to keep your sample until you hear back from the species expert, scientists may want you to send them a piece!

Why this Mission Matters

Red pine is a common species in Maine’s forest ecosystems, especially on poor soils, providing habitat and forage for native species. It is also commercially important species used for making a variety of products including telephone poles, lumber, and paper pulp. In recent years there has been a decline in red pine.

It is thought that red pine scale has been limited by harsh winters, possibly explaining why it had not been found in Northern New England until recently. Under current conditions, it is not likely to become established in interior regions of the state.

Scientists also find other pests and diseases on red pines including Sirococcus shoot blight and Diplodia shoot blight. These have both been found throughout the state, including locations where red pine scale may be found, and have already contributed to stand decline and mortality. In most of the state, red pine scale is not likely the major or main cause of red pine population decline at this time. However, many large stands of killed or dying red pine infected with red pine scale have been discovered in other states. In order to understand the impact of invasive red pine scale in Maine, scientists are going to need more data.


Here is a cool resource to see county level observations of forest pests from across the country http://foresthealth.fs.usda.gov/portal/Flex/APE

This shows where some of those species that haven't been found in Maine yet, have been found. I'm not sure if it's totally up to date since I didn't see red pine scale found in Maine.


Later this week, our 5th graders will be on the outlook in spite of the snow!

Thanks for your effort. I hope you have good weather for it! I just added some data from work I did last week. You can find it here: http://vitalsignsme.org/species-matsucoccus-matsumurae-was-found-akanoti....


Awesome teacherobrien and Weatherbee School! Don't let a little snow get in your way of this important work. Keep us posted on what you find, or hopefully don't find.

Massabesic Middle School is hoping to mobilize our community soon to look for red pine and red pine scale. Count us in this mission.

I'm looking forward to seeing some red pine posts from the Aroostook Team!

Good to know that we've got people on the lookout. Leveraging your community to help is a great idea!