Southern Pine Beetle by Stephanie Suesan Smith Ph.D.
Ever notice lots of oozing wounds on your pine, cedar, or juniper tree? See rows of circular holes in the trunk? You have crossed paths with the Southern Pine Beetle. Now this may be good news if you want the cedar in your pasture to die, but if you happen to like the tree that is infected, you have a problem.
The Southern Pine Beetle is a type of bark beetle. It bores a hole in the bark of the tree and lays eggs there. When the eggs hatch, the grubs, or larvae, chew the wood around the hole they are in. The newly hatched ones eat the soft, inner bark. The older ones eat the harder outer bark.When it has grown enough, the grub pupates and changes into an adult. The adult chews a circular hole through the bark and flies off to find a mate.
The beetle kills trees by either girdling it or by simply sucking so much of the needed water and nutrients the tree starves. Often, the first time a homeowner sees a problem is when the crown of the tree turns yellowish, then red, and finally brown. By then, it is very difficult if not impossible to treat the problem.
Other signs that there is a problem are tubes of pitch, or resin, flowing from the tree. When first attacked by these beetles, trees often exude large quantities of pitch in an attempt to push the invaders out. Sometimes this works. Other times, it does not, or the tree is not able to mount this counter attack.In any case, such pitch tubes are signs of a problem and should be investigated further.
The beetles and their larvae are small, about 1/8 inch long. If you chip the bark off a suspected invasion site, you will see holes with tiny grubs in them. You may see the black adult beetles, as well.
If you have this problem, you will want to treat it promptly so other trees do not become infected. How you treat it depends on how severely the tree is infested and what symptoms it has developed. If the crown is brown, your tree is probably dying and should be cut down and burned as soon as it is cut to kill the larvae and beetles it contains.
If your tree is at the pitch tube stage, or the crown is still green, you may be able to save it. The district entomologist has had some success with using Bayer Advanced Tree and Shrub Insect Control. This is a drench you mix in a bucket and pour all around the tree. The tree takes up the drench as if it were water. When the larvae and beetles suck the sap from the tree, the poison kills them. Be sure to follow the label directions and be advised that this is not as successful with heavy infestations.