Pine Beetles

Dying pine tree

A southern pine’s biggest enemy, Dendroctonus frontalis, annually kills enough pine trees to build 30,000 homes, and the financial losses are enormous. This deadly insect is 2-4 mm long, black and shiny, with a large head. You won’t be able to spot this tiny insect until its too late. Southern pine beetles can kill 1 tree at a time or in wide swaths of hundreds to thousands of trees.

Pine Beetle populations, like most bugs, are cyclical. Don’t assume that your trees are safe if they weren’t attacked when your neighbors trees were attacked in the previous years. Instead, call the Arborists at KnowTrees LLC to get a better idea of the severity of the pest this year.

The female pine beetles are the first to access your trees. They then release a pheromone that attracts the male beetles to your trees. This continues to happen until the whole tree is infested. Then they release another type of pheromone that lets other insects know that this tree is populated. However, there may not be enough beetles nearby to completely overtake the tree. A healthy pine tree can sometimes push out the females before the tree is overtaken. Only a fine powder will be at the base of the tree and will heal from its would-be invasion.

Pitch tubes from beetles in a pine tree

When the tree is overtaken, the male and female will mate and the female will create winding passageways throughout the bark. She will then lay her eggs within the passageways and leave the tree to go to another. You will see a sticky popcorn-like substance on the tree called pitch tubes. These pitch tubes are visible up to 10- 20 feet up the tree. About a week later the eggs hatch and further dig into the tree. A blue fungus carried with the beetles will clog the vessels in the pine tree causing it to die at an accelerated rate. You will then see the needles of your tree turning yellow to brown.

There are, however, some preventative steps you can take to help control pine beetles. Make sure to examine your pine trees for wounds or distress (beetles are attracted to pine trees in distress). Never accept “free wood chips” from local tree services that have pine mulch in it. There are some sprays that will help by killing the beetles before they enter. There are also some pheromone-based treatments that work well by tricking the beetles into thinking the tree is already colonized. Contact KnowTrees LLC to discuss controlling Pine Beetles. Keep in mind there is nothing you can do for an infested pine tree.

We recommend the removal of all pine beetle-infested trees and spray all other pines within 60 ft to help prevent further infestations.