NEWS

Hope for dying Athens pines

It looks like snow. But the white fluff that now covers most Athens pines indicates a deadly insect infestation, introduced years ago in a honey-making scheme that backfired. Yesterday, nine years after the government of the day encouraged Greek beekeepers to introduce the Marchalina hellenica insect to the country’s pine forests in a bid to boost honey output, the Agriculture Ministry announced a pilot scheme to get rid of the killer pest in northern Athens. «We are treating this as a major problem,» Deputy Agriculture Minister Alexandros Kontos said. A ministry release said environmentally friendly insect repellent would be used on pine trees in Melissia, Kifissia, Nea Erythraia and Aghios Stefanos. Results should be visible by the end of June and, if the experiment works, it will be implemented throughout the country. The insect drains trees of their sap, causing them to wither and die. In the process, it secretes the white fluff, which is a major source of food for bees. Past attempts to kill the pests by spraying them with water have failed.