The beetles chew under the bark, boring tiny pinholes and carry fungus that blocks the tree's ability to conduct water. The trees actually die of thirst.
Officials say they've already counted 14,000 acres in South Jersey that have been infested with the southern pine beetle and are looking at ways to stop its spread.
"This year, because of the drought and the heat, the trees just seem to be really under stress and the beetles were able to colonize a lot faster," said David Finley of the NJ Forest Service.
The U.S. Forest Service says the beetles destroyed about 1,210 acres of pine forest in nine southern counties last year.
Alex Kaskus of Mays Landing is used to a beautiful canopy of green over his head. But he noticed in the spring that his pine trees were dying and, by the end of summer, his property was devastated.
"I'd say a good 80% of my trees are dead," said Kaskas. "I got over 50 trees dead and they're not coming back."
With other pests like gypsy moths, you can spray pesticides to try to save a tree, but not with pine beetles.
Once they invade there's no saving the tree.