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"Pesty Southern Pine Beetles in Georgia"

Updated: Dec 11, 2022

Pine bark beetles are insects that feed on stressed and dying pine trees, although they seldom infest healthy and strong trees. Wind-blown trees, as well as trees injured or dead by nature or man, attract them. Drought, age, tree competition in overcrowded stands, disease, root rot, fire, hail, lightning, or other insects are all factors that cause living pine trees to become infected.

Three species of Ips engraver beetles, the southern pine beetle or SPB, and the black turpentine beetle are the native pine bark beetles of Georgia. Multiple bark beetle species may be feeding in a dying pine.

Because of the catastrophic mortality they inflict during epidemic seasons, Pine Bark Beetles are the most important forest insect pests. The southern pine beetle, in particular, causes huge losses in many parts of Georgia on a regular basis and should be considered when managing any pine-dominated forest.

Pine bark beetles come in five different species in the southeastern United States, and epidemics of these pests damaging wide swaths of pine trees have been observed since colonial times. Although environmental pressures to trees cannot be prevented, good forest management that manages density within stands can result in vigorous stands with lower mortality rates during outbreak seasons.

Because the behavior and possible impact of these distinct types of pine bark beetles varied significantly, it's critical to figure out which species are predominantly involved in an infestation before deciding on a treatment plan. The ideal approach for all of these species is to prevent infestations from occurring by employing management measures that enhance tree health and vigor.

The brown to black beetle measures approximately 1/8 inch in length. In contrast to the scooped-out rear of the Ips beetle, its hind end is rounded. The larvae have a reddish-brown head and the pupae are completely white. Larvae and pupae are around 1/8 inch long when fully grown. Eggs are white and visible to the naked eye.

The yellowing or browning of needles is frequently the first sign of an assault. White, yellow, or even red-brown pitch tubes approximately the size of a wad of gum can be found in the trunk. Drought circumstances may cause pitch tubes to be very small or missing, leaving just reddish-brown boring dust. The removal of the bark reveals a looping "S" shaped gallery pattern. This pattern distinguishes itself from the Ips beetle's "Y" or "H" shaped gallery patterns and is a useful identification feature. Trees in the core of busy areas exhibit dark reddish-brown leaf. On the borders of active patches, the foliage will turn a pale greenish or yellowish green color.

Adult beetles are drawn to trees that are weakened. They attack trees that appear to be healthy and strong during epidemics. The mid-trunk is attacked first, followed by the entire tree. Adult beetles eat their way through the bark, excavating long, winding "S"-shaped galleries. In nooks throughout the galleries, eggs are placed. Larvae eat in the cambium until they reach adulthood, then excavate pupation cells near the bark surface. Adult beetles emerge after pupation by chewing through the bark. Depending on the temperature, the attack can last anywhere from 25 to 40 days.

If you think you have a pine beetle infestation, our tree service can come out and give your trees an inspection and come up with a plan to prevent any property damage from fallen trees due to these pests.

Check out the video below for more information on the Southern Pine Beetle.

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