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Pine Trees & Pine Beetles

What Customers Need To Know

beetles-1The pine species, regardless of location, are subject to infestation by one or more of the pine bark beetles. The pine bark beetle family is responsible for most of the pine mortality around home sites. The three most common examples are the black turpentine, Ips and Southern Pine beetles.

The largest of the pine bark beetles is the black turpentine beetle. This beetle found most frequently around home construction, infests the pine tree from the ground level up to a height of approximately 10 feet. The first symptom of attack is usually the appearance of pitch tubes (blobs of resin), the size of a quarter, on the tree’s trunk. The adult beetle bores a small entrance tunnel through the bark to the tree’s cambium layer. The gum flow is heavy in this area which causes the accumulation of gum around the entrance to form pitch tubes. Here, an elongated, egg tunnel, one-half inch or wider, is constructed parallel with wood grain. The new adults emerge in about 2-3 months after the eggs are deposited. This beetle is not difficult to control. If detected early, this pest can be contained. Sprays should be applied to tree trunk up to a height of ten feet saturating the bark to the point of runoff.

The two remaining insects, the Ips (1/8 to 1/4 inch in length) and the southern pine beetles (about 1/8 of an inch in length) infest the complete length of the tree trunk. They are not restricted to the base of the tree as the black turpentine beetle (see diagram on back).

The southern pine beetle is usually more aggressive than the Ips beetle. However, the symptoms and control methods are similar. The pitch tubes, caused by both insects, are 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter, and in many cases, are Inconspicuous to the homeowner. The appearance of pitch tubes and the yellowing needles are generally the first symptoms of the tree’s cambium layer, which girdle the conductive tissues. Both beetles require only 3-6 weeks to complete their life cycle. There are case histories that show trees can be saved if treatment is started within a few
days after initial infestation. In most cases, it is advisable to cut the infested tree and dispose of the wood.

The prevention of black turpentine beetle infestations is much simpler than that of the Ips and southern pine beetles. To guard against black turpentine beetle infestations, prevent injury to the trunk and roots, fertilize and water weakened trees, and spray the base of the tree up to a height of 10-12 feet with a labeled pesticide.

Sawdust or a larger frass similar to a granular fertilizer is a sign of Pine Beetle infestation.

Sawdust or a larger frass similar to a granular
fertilizer is a sign of Pine Beetle infestation.

Pitch tubes of Black Turpentine Beetle – frass is larger – similar to the size of granular fertilizer. “BUG” in circle.

Pitch tubes of Black Turpentine Beetle
– frass is larger – similar to the size of
granular fertilizer. “BUG” in circle.

Managing Pine trees and preventing Pine Beetle problems

Prevent damage and stress to trees

Watch for lightning damage (stress & injury will attract bugs)

Mulch and Water (in draught conditions)

Watch crown (needle color) from late Spring thru late fall.

Prune live branches only during Winter

OK to prune dead branches anytime

*** If crown / needles begins to brown – act quickly!
*** Immediately remove any tree with significant infestation of Pine Beetles to reduce spread of pest!

Pine beetles will multiply rapidly during the late summer when weather hot and during extended draught conditions. When this occurs these bugs can attack and kill other Pines in close proximity. This can become very costly for any homeowner’s budget. Most chemical applications to control these pests should be applied by a State Licensed Pest Control Operator.


Mulching Benefits and How to Apply

Mulches provide one of the greatest benefits to trees and shrubs. In nature this occurs as a natural event, with leaves and twigs falling to the ground and naturally decomposing and enriching the soil. As this occurs, beneficial fungi called mycorrhizae begin to colonize along the smaller, finer absorbing roots, forming a symbiotic relationship. This root and fungi relationship helps roots to absorb moisture and nutrients more readily. This beneficial relationship helps to keep roots and trees healthy and further reduces environmental stress caused by weather or other events.
(Note: A live spore of these fungi is now available for landscape use. Search: mycorrhizae inoculants).

As we try to replicate this in our residential and commercial landscapes, we must use caution. All to often I see poor and inappropriate applications of mulch that can cause more harm than benefit. This is especially true when applied in excess. Please keep in mind that mulch products such as recycled rubbers and plastics, and even stone, that do not decompose, do absolutely nothing to improve soil structure or microbial activity that will benefit roots.