Conifer bark beetles are often found infesting pine trees, and can often lead to their death. Here are some ways to manage a conifer bark beetle infestation.
What Is the Threat?
Conifer bark beetles are species of beetles that invade and kill conifer trees, including pines and spruce. This is the comprehensive name for the group, which can also include:
- Black turpentine beetles
- Southern pine beetles
- Mountain pine beetles
- Western pine beetles
- Spruce beetles
- Ips engraver beetles
When conifer bark beetles attack a tree, they bore into the growing parts of its trunk, called the cambium. They invade in large numbers, disrupting the flow of nutrients and water into those developing cell layers. Over time, this kills the tree.
Some bark beetles also contain another threat: blue stain. This is a type of fungus that clogs a tree’s vascular system, which also deprives it of nutrients and kills it.
Where Is the Threat?
Some species of conifer bark beetles are located across North America. These include the spruce beetle and Ips engraver beetle. Then, there are some species that only occur in certain regions.
For example, mountain pine beetles and western pine beetles appear west of the Rocky Mountains, while the southern pine beetle is found primarily in the southeastern United States. However, the latter has started to migrate and is now found as far north as New York, and as far west as Texas.
Symptoms of Conifer Bark Beetles
If you suspect that conifer bark beetles have invaded your trees, it’s important to know the symptoms to look for. First, keep in mind that these beetles will usually attack stressed conifer trees, though they can also bore into healthy ones.
There are many different factors that can stress a tree, including:
- Excess moisture
- Nutrient deficiency
Start by checking the lower boles of your trees. Here, you may find cream-colored pitch tubes, or visible dust from the beetles’ boring activity. Higher up, you might notice that the crown of an attacked tree will begin to change color.
First, it will go from green to yellow. Then, it will fade from yellow to red. Over the next few weeks, the tree will continue to lose color and will eventually die.
Tree mortality is expedited if the beetles also carry a special fungus on their bodies. This fungus inhibits water transport within the tree. In addition, young larvae feed on it, and grow in size and number. A tree service company can identify the presence of bark beetles and help you take action against them.
What to Do About Conifer Bark Beetles
A trunk injection is usually a sufficient defense against conifer bark beetles. If applied preventatively, it can protect your trees from this pest for up to two years.
If possible, it’s best to call a tree service company as soon as possible, before an infestation occurs. While you can inject a tree that’s already infested, most are unable to survive once the beetles have taken hold.
If you live in an area where these beetles also carry blue stain fungus, then you may require a systemic fungicide in addition to the trunk injection to achieve maximum protection. This can safeguard the tree against the additional stress that the fungus can cause.
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