Researchers are studying a fungus spread by an exotic insect that's
destroying The Great Smoky Mountains National Park's beech forests.
Kris Johnson, the park's vegetation management specialist, said the damage
being done by the beech scale is most evident along the Appalachian
"In 1995 these trees were alive," said Johnson, who recently visited an
infested area west of Clingmans' Dome. "You don't think of how much beech
there is in the park until you get up here and see all this
The insect is identified by a smattering of white specks, each no bigger
than a pinhead.
Johnson said the insect kills beech trees by punching tiny holes in the
bark. The holes promote the spread of a lethal fungus called beech-bark
The park service first discovered the beech scale in 1993 near Clingmans
Dome, the state's tallest mountain at 6,643 feet above sea level.
Since then the insect, and its associated disease, has spread throughout
the park's higher elevations, decimating whole stands of beech trees along
the mountains' crest.
Each year, Johnson said a park service crew maps 60 miles of high-elevation
trails to track the disease. In addition, the park service has 10 long-term
monitoring plots used to study the disease and its impact on the forest
The beech scale larvae are spread by the wind and spend their adult stage
with their mouth parts stuck in the tree. They have no legs, so the adults
never move, Johnson said.
Insects decimate Smokies' beeches
Published: Tue Sep 28, 1999 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 01:57 p.m.