Photo by Fabio Stergulc / Università di Udine, Bugwood.org
The southern pine beetle is a highly destructive pest that can devastate pine trees in forests and urban settings. At maturity, this diminutive pest is scarcely more significant than a grain of rice. Yet, it causes a tremendous amount of damage to pine trees in Florida and across the southern United States. Typically, the beetle invades older trees, has suffered an injury, and has trunks less than 6 inches in diameter. However, the pest will also begin attacking healthy trees during severe outbreaks. The southern pine beetle prefers to invade loblolly, Virginia, pitch, and shortleaf pine trees.
Because the southern pine beetle attacks trees internally, most people are unaware of the problem until significant damage has already been done. Female beetles are responsible for determining what tree to live in, and they begin boring holes at the base of the trunk. After mating and laying eggs, the beetles secrete pheromones, which attract more beetles to the site. Soon, the insects can overwhelm the tree’s defenses, causing it to rot from the inside. Eventually, the tree dies. New beetles reach maturity in less than a month and create additional holes in the trunk before they leave the original tree. Beetles will then move to nearby trees, and an outbreak quickly begins. Holes in the trunk and sawdust at the base of the trunk are the first outward signs of a problem. As the trees die, their needles begin to turn colors, but the damage is irreversible by this time.
In a severe infestation, most experts recommend that infected trees be cut down and turned into mulch. However, if the damage is caught early enough, specific pesticides can stop the infestation from progressing. Only a professional exterminator should be trusted to handle the job for the best results. If you suspect that southern pine beetles are infecting trees in your backyard, contact a professional to help solve the problem. ABC is a leading pest control provider in the Orlando area and can help stop southern pine beetles from destroying the trees in your yard.