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June Beetle

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Pine Bark Beetles


Pine Bark Beetles The usual method of detecting this insect is by observing masses of pitch (pitch tubes) on the bark of dying pine trees. Adult beetles are tiny, being 1/16 to 3/16 inch long, dark brown to black cylindrical beetles. Diagnosis of dead trees is made by the appearance of the pattern of galleries that appears S-shaped underneath the bark and outside of the heartwood in the phloem-cambium layer.

Pine Bark Beetle

Pine Bark Beetles

Pine bark beetles are small insects that kill pines by boring beneath the bark. Bark beetles are most active between March and September with limited activity on warm winter days. Two types of populations are generally recognized; endemic and epidemic. Endemic populations occur most often and are characterized by less than one beetle spot for every 1000 acres of pine. Epidemic populations occur every 5 10 years and may be scattered over two-thirds of the state and there are one or more spots per 1000 acres of pine. During epidemics vast areas of pine are killed and the monetary losses are estimated in the millions of dollars.


The engraver beetles prefer hot weather and will attack logging slash and trees damaged by lightning, fire, drought, disease and overcrowding. They are most active from June through September and kill trees in groups of 20 or less. The black turpentine beetle prefers trees damaged by logging and construction equipment, lightning and naval stores operations.


Pine Bark Beetle Larva

Pine Bark Beetle Larva

Life Cycle: All species of the pine beetles Coleoptera Scolytidae have four life stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult. The adult stage is the only one to leave one tree and move to another. The other stages all occur under the bark. These stages look like those in, Southern Pine Beetle, except for size differences. The Southern Pine Beetle takes 30-40 days to complete one cycle, with 5 or more cycles per year. Some Ips beetles can complete the cycle in 20 days in hot weather, with 5 or more cycles per year. The Black Turpentine Beetle takes 70-80 days to complete a cycle, with fewer cycles per year.


Adult pine beetles are small, about 1/10 to 1/4 of an inch. The adults bore into the bark and the tree responds by exuding pitch for protection that forms distinctive pitch tubes. The tubes differ according to the type of beetle attacking. However, drought stressed trees may not be able to produce the tubes in its own defense. Both the adults and larvae feed on the phloem tissue under the bark and this may lead to tree death if it is sufficiently girdled.


Damage: Pine bark beetles attack and kill pine trees, and are relatively common pests of pine forests. The feeding and tunneling activities of adult and larval pine bark beetles eventually girdles an infested tree disrupts the transport of water and nutrients up and down the stem and quickly kills it.


Control: The best control is to keep trees in vigorous healthy condition. This will usually prevent the initial attack by adult beetles. Healthy trees have a heavy flow of pitch and can "drown" the beetles as they bore through the bark. It is not possible to prevent natural weakening factors such as old age, prolonged floods, fire, drought, and lightning strikes from occurring. However, in the homeowner situation, water and fertilization go a long way towards keeping the tree healthy. Avoid injuring trees with riding lawnmowers.


Pine Bark Beetle damage

Pine Bark Beetle damage

If a tree is severely injured or struck by lightning, early removal of the tree will prevent beetle infestations. Avoid soil compaction and injury to trees during house construction. Also, do not leave only large, mature pines on the lot. During hot, dry weather, inspect the trees for the initial signs of attack. If a tree is beginning to show color changes in the needles, remove it as soon as possible. One infested tree can be the source of thousands of adult beetles that will spread to other pines in the yard and neighborhood. Spraying a tree 20 to 60 feet tall is not an option.


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