The Southern Pine Bark Beetle
The Southern Pine Bark Beetle is a common pest in the South. They can kill a Pine Tree in a matter of days. An affected tree can be detected by observing masses of tubes on the bark. The beetle itself is small, ranging from 1/16 to 3/16 of an inch in length.
The beetle identifies weak and stressed trees by smell. Following an infestation, the Pine tree will rapidly turn brown and die. The beetles typically colonize from March through May. Southern Pine Bark Beetle infestation can be identified by S-shaped ‘galleries’ under the bark. Other, slower acting beetles such as the Turpentine Black Beetle do not show the distinctive ‘S’ pattern.
Upon initial attack, the bug emits a pheromone which attracts other beetles; mating and breeding then occurs. Eggs hatch in 1 to 4 weeks, depending on temperature. The resulting larvae go through 4 stages until the Pupa stage is reached, after which an adult emerges in about 17 days.
Prevention is the best method to control this pest. Use nightly slow-drip watering and fertilize during the winter. The Houston City Forester believes maintaining healthy, strong trees is the correct approach, although he admits certain insecticides may help fight off infestation. There is no consensus on this, however.
All the experts do agree that when an attack occurs, the impacted tree will rapidly die. The tree should be cut down and disposed of. According to Ability Tree Service, then an area of approximately around 50 feet of the removed tree should be sprayed to limit damage.
The Southern Pine Bark Beetle is native to East Texas and has caused severe damage to the pines in Houston over the last decade.