PINE BARK BEETLE BIOLOGY
Pine Bark Beetles are small reddish brown beetles about 1/4 to 1/3 of an inch long. They are able to fly, they reside in trees and can be found at many altitudes around the world. Though they prefer live trees, they can and will feed on freshly cut stands when readily available. Pine bark beetles are the single most destructive pest which attacks pine trees. They are quick to reproduce, migrate and eat so once active on any one tree in a stand, it is important to start dealing with them immediately to minimize casualties. There are other species which will feed on a variety of hardwood trees but these tend to be slower at both reproducing and causing damage. Softwoods, like pine trees, tend to get damaged quicker and are able to provide harborage to more insects then hard woods over the same period of time.
Pine bark beetles are attracted to pine trees by first smelling the trees sap. Though most trees will emit small amounts of sap naturally, trees which sustain injury due to man or nature are more likely to get beetle activity quicker. Pruning at unappropriate times (like the summer), mechanical damage by construction crews cutting protective tree bark, lightning, drought, disease or insect damage like that which can occur from termites are all things that can make a tree more susceptible to pine bark beetles. Once a flow of sap is more than normal, the odds that beetles will find the tree are increased.
PINE TREE INJURIES LEAD TO BEETLES
A normal healthy tree will emit or release some sap that can attract beetles. When a tree is injured and sap runs freely, the odds that beetles find the tree are greatly increased. Once found, beetles will penetrate the bark and then begin excavating tunnels between the bark and the wood of the tree. These tunnels will serve as egg cavities. Eggs will be laid and when the larva hatch they will immediately begin to feed on the live part of the tree called the phloem and xylem. This feeding will lead them on a random journey which typically moves around the tree weakening it’s bark to the point of it falling off. Trees which have been severely damaged will shed their bark and appear naked; galleries and tunnels will be visible leaving a sure sign of what caused the damage.
Once the larva get their fill, they will undergo a metamorphosis during which time they change to adults. This third stage is called the pupa and when ready, they will hatch and emerge from the tree. Their emergence will leave a bunch of new holes through which the attractive scent of sap along with their natural pheromones will attract even more beetles. For this reason it is always wise to treat any tree which you suspect may have a small amount of activity. Trees can withstand a beetle or two but if left alone, this initial activity will multiply to hundreds of beetles as new ones are attracted. At this point the survival of the tree is not likely. Most importantly, the adult beetles which will be emerging are looking for new trees on which to land and start laying eggs. If you have a stand of trees and one gets an infestation, it is always best to treat as many around the infested one that you want to save. This effort will help prevent the activity from spreading.
PINE BARK BEETLE CONTROL
The control of pine bark beetles is really not a control as much as it is a preventive treatment. Trees which have activity are difficult to save. This is true for two reasons. First, once a tree is infested, the adults and larva are active behind the bark which serves as protection from conventional sprays. Secondly, rarely does anyone spot a tree with only a beetle or two. However, it can be done. If you happen upon a tree which has only minor and beginning beetle activity, it can be saved. For this reason you must consider all options and then make a decision based on what makes you comfortable and what gives you piece of mind. Here are some general guidelines for both the prevention and control of pine bark beetles before and after activity has been found.
PINE BARK BEETLE LIQUID TREATMENTS
If you are in a region where pine bark beetles are active or if you have had some bad experience with them in the past, you may consider treating and protecting any tree you value. Such treatments should done quarterly (cold weather regions don’t need to treat when the beetles are not active during winter months). By spraying the bark you can help to establish a protective barrier through which beetles cannot enter. Furthermore, one of the best products to use has a strong repellency feature. Since bark beetles don’t like it they tend to stay off and away from treated surfaces. CYPERMETHRIN is the product to use for this purpose. It will last at least a month or more and because the beetles can sense even trace amounts they tend to stay away from where it has been applied.
Use one of our SPRAYERS and be sure to get as high as you can up the bark. In general, you want to spray high first so that the material will run down the bark and you will be able to maximize the area treated without spraying the same area over and over.
Since pine trees tend to have rough and detailed surfaces which are sometimes hard to get equally sprayed, add some SPREADER STICKER to the tank mix. This product makes the spray “spread” over treated surfaces enabling the Cypermethrin to get better coverage. In the long run you will be doing a better job of spraying as well as using less chemical. Treat any and all trees you want to protect. Such applications will help keep away carpenter ants, termites, carpenter bees and other destructive insects which can all weaken and contribute to any trees demise. Do these applications quarterly and you won’t have to worry about tree loss due to bark beetles.
PINE BARK BEETLE HOLE TREATMENT
There are many theories about what to do once you have found live beetle activity. As previously stated above, most infestations are not discovered until it is too late to save the host tree. However, if you have found a tree with only a little activity and want to do everything you can to save it, you do have options.
THE BEST SPRAY
The best option is to use some of the Cypermethrin listed above in a Sprayer along with the Spreader Sticker and inject the material into any hole you find on the bark. Exit holes, bark separating from the tree and damaged sections can all be used as access points through which you can spray. If you poke and prod the bark gently, many times you are able to find sections of bark which are loose or cracking. Such areas probably have activity and should be treated. You can also drill some small holes into the tree, just deep enough to enable spray to trickle down behind th bark, which can prove to be an effective way to treat. This type of treatment can be tedious and may prove to be too much work. However, killing off feeding larva before they cause too much damage can prove life saving for the tree.
PINE BARK BEETLE AEROSOL
The second option for treating the tree behind the bark is the use of PT-CYKICK. This is an aerosol which comes with a straw which can be inserted into small holes so that you can treat behind the tree bark easily. The pressure of the can along with the aerosol sized particles which are released insures a thorough treatment. The use of this product will require less product which will be distributed faster and more uniform. The other advantage using this product is that you are able to treat the tree much faster. Insert the thin straw, hold the can on for 5-10 seconds and you are done. Do this around the trunk spacing holes about 1-2 feet apart depending on how well each treatment hole takes product. The more each hole will take the less holes needed. Holes don’t need to be bigger than 1/8 of an inch so the exit holes from beetles which have already left can be utilized. Once treated behind the bark, use some of the Cypermethrin listed above to spray the outside the bark of the tree to help put in place a residual which will keep out new beetles. If you have other trees close by, treat them as well following the treatment of the tree with activity.
PINE BARK BEETLE SYSTEMIC (SOIL INJECTION)
When a tree has been found with a lot of activity, you probably won’t be able to save it. The original thinking of handling such trees has been to remove them making sure to burn it along with all the infesting beetles. However, this is not always so easy to do. One thing is for sure: If you have a tree infested with Pine Bark Beetles and there are other trees close by, you need to treat the other trees ASAP. This preventive application should be done with the Cypermethrin and careful inspections of these same trees should be done monthly as well until the infested tree can be removed or taken down.
There are other considerations that need to be thought of regarding the infested tree. First, does it pose a threat to a home or wildlife should it unexpectedly fall? Trees that have been weakened by beetle damage will eventually fall to the earth. Be sure the tree you have identified does not pose any hazard to nearby residents.
Second, can the tree which is infested be removed? If the answer is yes, you should consider treating if before the removal. Remember, the act of taking down the tree will stir up adults causing them to leave. This exodus will undoubtedly allow several of them to find a new home elsewhere basically infesting another tree. Avoid this problem by treating the tree being removed with Cykick or Cypermethrin.
Third, once removed, where will the dead tree be taken? Trees which have been treated prior to being taken down may have less active adults and larva but there is no way all will be dead. As a general rule you don’t want to leave a fallen tree laying around which is infested with pine bark beetles. They will quickly start to leave and nearby trees will become immediate targets and new homes. It is important to have the tree taken away, mulched or burned immediately upon being cut. There have been too many cases of trees which look to be OK turn out having hundreds and thousands of adults start leaving it once it has been cut down. These migrating adults are then able to relocate and start their infestations all over again.
Make sure you don’t let this happen by disposing of the tree completely. Burning works well and mulching does a good job as well. The last thing you want to do is keep the logs laying around intended to become firewood for the next winter. This would be a big mistake. Since the adults and larva will start leaving this now dead and dehydrating lumber you should never keep and store any of the infested wood around the home. Get rid of it any way you can.
And something else you should consider doing is to apply a systemic. These are products that you water into the ground around the trunk of the tree. Once injected, these products will be absorbed up into the tree and kill any pests feeding on it. The best product for this is DOMINION 2 L. It can be sprayed on the tree too but it’s real strong point is when one uses it as a systemic. Though it will take a few weeks to make it’s way throughout the tree, annual treatments with Dominion can protect trees from infestation and cure current problems so trees can be safely removed without fear of relocating the beetle population.
PINE BARK BEETLE CONTROL SUMMARY
Pine bark beetles can be a problem for homeowners and land owners all around the world. They strike quietly and their damage will quickly kill infected trees. If you are in a region where activity is high, inspect your trees every couple of months to try and identify if any get activity. Pine bark beetle control can be achieved if you treat with Cypermethrin once a quarter to help safeguard against infestations. Once active, you will need to first protect the trees surrounding the one with activity and then make some decisions regarding the infested tree which could include using a systemic like Merit WP. If you decide to try and save it, be sure to do thorough applications behind the bark which will help to kill off current activity thus helping to minimize damage. If the tree has to be removed, be sure to destroy all the wood properly so the present beetle population is not able to survive and relocate. Following these guidelines will help keep your trees both healthy and happy so they can continue to be an active part of your landscape.