Southern pine beetles can kill your ornamental pine


Material Information

Southern pine beetles can kill your ornamental pine southern pine beetle handbook
Series Title:
Home and garden bulletin ;
Southern pine beetle handbook
Physical Description:
15 p. : col. ill. ; 24 cm.
Thatcher, Robert C
Coster, Jack E
Payne, Thomas L
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture
Place of Publication:
Washington, D.C
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Trees -- Diseases and pests   ( lcsh )
Beetles -- United States   ( lcsh )
federal government publication   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Statement of Responsibility:
by Robert C. Thatcher, Jack E. Coster, and Thomas L. Payne.
General Note:
Cover title.
General Note:
Combined forest pest research and development program.
General Note:
"Issued Oct. 1978"--p. 15.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 001198172
notis - AFU8413
oclc - 04608079
System ID:

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Full Text
United States
Department of

Combined Forest Pest
Research and
Development Program
Home and Garden Bulletin
No. 226

Southern Pine
Beetle Handbook

Southern Pine
Beetles Can
Kill Your

In 1974 the U.S. Department of
Agriculture initiated the Com-
bined Forest Pest Research and
Development Program, an inter-
agency effort that concentrated
on the Douglas-fir tussock moth
in the West, on the southern pine
beetle in the South, and on the
gypsy moth in the Northeast. The
work reported in this publication
was funded in whole or in part by
the program. This manual is one
in a series on the southern pine

Southern Pine Beetles Can
Kill Your Ornamental Pine

by Robert C. Thatcher,
Jack E. Coster,
and Thomas L. Payne'

Figure 1.-Red-topped trees killed
by beetles.

Pine Bark Beetles -
A Forest Menace

Southern pine beetles are compulsive
eaters. Each year in the South from
Texas to Virginia the voracious insects
conduct a movable feast across thou-
sands of acres of pine forests. Most
trees die soon after the beetles sink
their teeth into them (fig. 1).

And hungry beetles are hard to stop.
In the early 1970's, they killed pines
containing enough board feet of lum-
ber to build about 55,000 new houses.
Less than half of this wood was re-
moved from the forest and used.

Program Manager, Applications Coordina-
tor, and Research Coordinator, respectively,
Southern Pine Beetle Program, Pineville,

And They Can Be a Menace
To You, Too


Unless you are a forest manager or
work in the woods, you may not
know just how much damage the
beetles can do. Normally, they remain
under the bark of pine trees back in
the forest, silently gnawing away at a
healthy chunk of the southern timber

But not always. Sometimes they for-
age across forest lines and onto subur-
ban or urban lots and yards (fig. 2).
The homeowner with pines is not out
of the woods as far as southern pine
beetles are concerned. For this reason,
owners of ornamental pines in the
South should learn how to recognize
and cope with bark beetle attacks.

Figure 2.-Newly killed pines
around suburban home.

Appearance and Life Cycle

Adult southern pine beetles are
roughly 1/8 inch long, which is about
the size of a grain of rice, and reddish
brown to solid black. The insect goes
through four life stages-egg, larva,
pupa, and adult (fig. 3)-in the inner
bark of its host pine tree.

Eggs are mere pearly white dots. Lar-
vae, or "grubs," are white, legless,
and crescent shaped, with glossy red-
dish-brown heads. Pupae are also
white but closely resemble the adult
beetle shape.

Beetles mature in about a month and
three to eight generations are born
each year. Adults have wings; after
killing the tree in which they were
born, the beetles fly to another living
pine to start the life cycle again.

Figure 3.-Life stages of the
southern pine beetle; A, egg; B,
larva; C, pupa; D, adult.

Associated Beetles


Five--_ S ned_ En ver

Six-Spned Engraver

Southern ne Beetle
KSouthern Pine Beetle

Figure 4.-Major pine bark
beetles of the South and the trunk
areas usually attacked. From top
to bottom: small Ips, medium Ips,
large Ips, southern pine beetle, and
black turpentine beetle.



How Beetles Kill Pines

Southern pine beetles may feast on a
tree by themselves, or they may have
company -three species of Ips
engraver beetles and black turpentine
beetles. The different species some-
times strike at the same time, making
it hard to tell precisely what role each
species plays in killing the pine and
how much they help or hinder each
other (fig. 4).

There are three sizes of Ips engraver
beetles. The smallest is slightly smaller
than the southern pine beetle and at-
tacks the upper part of the pine, in-
cluding high branches. Middle-sized
Ips prefer the midsection and upper
level of the trunk, while the large en-
gravers seem to favor the lower one-
third. Although they can wipe out an
entire stand of pines if conditions are
conducive to beetle spread, all species
of Ips usually kill only one or a few
pines in isolated outbreaks.

The black turpentine beetle is the larg-
est bark beetle in the South, about 1/4
inch long. Yet it is the least destructive
because it attacks in smaller numbers,
strikes fewer trees, and takes longer to
kill them than the other species do.
The black turpentine beetle likes the
lower third of very weak or dying pines
and will even make a home for itself in
freshly cut stumps.

Southern pine beetles can kill a pine
tree in a matter of days. Thousands of
winged adults attack a single tree, bore
through the bark, and hollow out egg
"galleries." The females lay eggs in
niches beside the galleries. In a week or
so, larvae hatch and start chewing their
way through the cambium living
conductive tissue -around the tree.
This feeding "girdles" the pine and
cuts off the normal flow of moisture
and nutrients throughout the tree's
system, quickly sapping its strength
and contributing to its death. Adult
feeding and a blue-stain fungus, which
piggybacks its way inside pine bark on
attacking adult beetles, help bring on
tree death.

Symptoms of Beetle Attack

* Successful attacks by southern pine
beetles or by more than one species of
Ips engravers always kill the tree. But
if you act quickly enough, your pines
can weather attacks by black turpen-
tine beetles. Because control measures
depend in part on whether or not the
tree can be saved, you must first iden-
tify the species of beetle you are deal-
ing with.

First signs of southern pine beetle at-
I tacks are popcorn-size lumps of pitch,
called "pitch tubes," which occur at
heights up to 60 feet (fig. 5). The pitch
tubes of black turpentine beetles are
much larger-about the size of a fifty-
,< cent piece -and appear at the foot of
the tree (fig. 6). Ips beetles rarely leave
1 pitch tubes. During dry weather, pitch
tubes do not appear; instead, red bor-
ing dust, which looks like fine red
sawdust, will collect in bark crevices
and at the base of the pine.

In later stages of southern pine beetle
attack, you will be able to see small S-
shaped feeding cuts on the inside of the
bark (fig. 7). Black turpentine beetles
make vertical, wide etchings and Ips
cut either Y- or H-shaped tunnels. The
final sign of attack-and the sure
mark of death for the tree -is a fade in
needle color from green to yellow, red,
and brown (fig. 8).

Figure 5.-Pitch tubes, the first
sign of southern pine beetle attack.
Figure 6.-The pitch tubes of
black turpentine beetles are larger
and lower on the tree than those of
southern pine and Ips beetles.


Figure 7.-Beetles chew galleries
in the inner bark of pines.

Figure 8.-Needles on trees killed
by beetles fade from green to yel-
low, red, and brown.

Pines Likely to be Attacked

Figure 9.-A healthy pine can
sometimes pitch out beetle attacks.

Figure 10.-Beetles often attack
lightning-struck pines.

Figure 11.-A pine that has been
gouged by heavy equipment.

Figure 12.-Construction work
has disturbed this soil and skinned
bark from the trees.

Figure 13.-Laying sewer or water
lines can disturb soil and weaken

Some trees are apparently more ap-
petizing to southern pine beetles than
other trees. For instance, beetles seem
to prefer loblolly, shortleaf, and Vir-
ginia pines to other kinds. During a
beetle population explosion, however,
the insects will take any species of pine

And old, unhealthy, or weakened
pines of all species -whether diseased,
damaged, or otherwise stressed -can
be sitting ducks for southern pine
beetles. Such trees have limited sup-
plies of pitch, which is a tree's best
natural defense against wood-boring
insects. Healthy pines can sometimes
"pitch out" beetle attacks by entrap-
ping or smothering the invaders with a
heavy and prolonged flow of pitch.
Sick ones cannot (fig. 9).

What weakens pines? Natural causes
like old age, drought, prolonged
floods, hard freezes, fire, and lightning
strikes can undermine your pine's
vigor and make it more vulnerable to
beetles (fig. 10). The same is true of
diseases such as littleleaf and fungus-
caused root rot.

Man, too, causes problems. Common
landscaping operations like bulldozing
and road grading may inadvertently
pave the way for beetles by damaging
tree roots and trunks (fig. 11). Heavy
traffic by trucks and other construc-
tion equipment during the building of
a new house often packs down the soil
around tree roots. This hurts the pine
because it prevents normal movement
of water and air through the root zone
(figs. 12 and 13).

What You Can Do to Prevent
Beetle Attacks

Figure 14.-This old, diseased tree
jeopardizes the healthy ones next
to it.

The best way to protect your pine trees
is to make sure they are not attacked in
the first place. Keep them healthy. Re-
member, a wounded, sick, or light-
ning-struck pine on your lawn is a
standing invitation to dinner for
southern pine beetles.

But the beetles' preference for sick or
weak trees does not mean they cannot
or will not kill healthy pines. They
often do. In fact, once the bugs have
built up a large population, not even
the strongest and healthiest pines can
fight them off. This is why a single
damaged or unhealthy pine in your
neighborhood-which the beetles can
use as a place to get started -endan-
gers all the rest, sick or healthy
(fig. 14).

If you are building a new house, keep
the soil from being packed down or
piled up on tree roots. This will help
prevent drastic changes in ground
water movement. Avoid leaving only
old, large pines on your land, since
these trees are prime targets for
beetles. In warm weather during the
construction period check every few
days for pitch tubes on the outer bark
of your trees.

On older, established lawns, you
should water pines during dry spells
and fertilize them as needed. As a
general rule, two pounds of fertil-
izer-such as 10-8-6 formula-for
each inch of tree diameter will be

..... ..nn .. **I.I. *

enough supplemental nutrition for ma-
ture pines. For younger trees of less
than 6 inches in diameter, use only one
pound of fertilizer per inch of di-
ameter. For soil analysis and more com-
plete details on fertilizing your pines,
check with your county extension
agent (fig. 15).

Figure 15.-Beetles may attack
healthy pines on established lawns.

Insecticides-an Ounce
of Prevention?

What about insecticides? At present,
two chemicals effective against all
southern pine bark beetles are avail-
able, but this could change with new
Environmental Protection Agency rul-
ings. See your county agent about ap-
proved insecticides, amounts to use,
and methods of application. Of
course, be sure to read instructions
carefully and to handle such com-
pounds cautiously.

How to Control
Beetle Spread

But what if it is already too late for an
ounce of prevention? By the time you
spot the telltale symptoms of beetle
attack-pitch tubes, feeding cuts in the
inner bark, and fading of tree foli-
age-it is too late to save the tree. You
have only one move left. Stop beetle

You can do this in two ways. First, if
the beetles are still under the bark of
the dead or dying pine, cut it down
and haul it away or burn it. This
should break up the center of beetle
emergence and stop them from infest-
ing other trees.

Second, spray the attacked pine with
an approved insecticide, which will kill
eggs, larvae, pupae, and adults still
under the bark. Or, you can spray
uninfested trees adjacent to the one
under attack to protect them during
the period of beetle emergence.
Whichever method of control you
choose, you must act quickly or the
beetles will spread to other pines.


A Check List for
Coping with Beetles

* Avoid damage to pines during yard
work and construction.
* Keep pines healthy by watering and
fertilizing them.
* Watch for pitch tubes and boring
dust, especially in summer and spring.
* Quickly remove infested trees or
spray with an approved insecticide.

The authors thank the Boyce Thomp-
son Institute of Plant Research, Inc.,
for permission to use the chart on
southern pine bark beetles, drawn by
Richard Kliefoth. For photographs,
we thank the Georgia Forestry Com-
mission in Macon, Forest Insect &
Disease Management in Atlanta, Ga.,
and Asheville, N. C., and State &
Private Forestry and the Bark Beetle
Research Work Unit in Alexandria,
La. We also appreciate the manuscript
reviews and other assistance given by
Extension-Forest Resources of North
Carolina State University, the Texas
Agricultural Extension Service of the
Texas A&M University, the Texas
Forest Service, and State & Private
Forestry in Alexandria, La.

Issued October 1978

For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office
Washington, D.C. 20402
Stock Number 001-001-00422-1

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