The dry months in the southern United States brings with them one of the most feared species of beetles, the southern pine beetle. These beetles are very invasive and spread from tree to tree. Infestations often lead to tree loss.

What Are Southern Pine Beetles?

A southern pine beetle is about 3/16 of an inch long. While not very big, they can do a lot of damage. These beetles are usually attracted to trees that have been compromised due to drought conditions, tree damage and disease.

The females attack the weakened tree by boring into the tree and laying eggs in the cambium layer. The resulting larvae then live off of the healthy bark tissue. As the adult beetles bore through the tree, they introduce a fungus into the tree that clogs the water transport tubes. When the water supply is interrupted, it can lead to the tree’s death.

How Do You Know If Pine Beetles Are in Your Tree?

Within several weeks of infestation, your tree’s foliage will turn brown. Look for areas on the tree where “popcorn balls” have formed — these are caused by resin leaking from the tree. Also look for “shot-holes” that indicate that a beetle has bored into a tree.

The beetles move from tree to tree looking for new areas where they can breed. Indicators such as popcorn balls and shot tubes usually begin about three feet off the ground and can be found high up in the tree. To thoroughly examine the tree, you need do more than examine at eye level.

How Do You Get Rid of Them?

Trees can be treated with insecticide. It can be difficult to treat a tree that has southern pine beetles because you have to treat the whole tree using specialized chemicals. Spraying just a portion of the trunk is ineffective. Often, professional equipment like a bucket truck is necessary to spray the uppermost reaches of a tree. It is best to hire a professional tree service to eradicate a beetle infestation. If you have a tree that is heavily infected, it is almost always necessary that you remove the tree. If not, the beetles will spread to healthy surrounding trees.

How Can I Keep Pine Beetles away from My Trees?

Your best protections against southern pine beetles is to make sure that your trees stay hydrated and that any damage or disease that has affected your tree is dealt with. Talk to your neighbors to make sure you’re alerted to a possible beetle infestation on their property. You should also warn them if you have a problem so that they can take preventative steps.

If you take the time to examine your trees a few times throughout the year or hire a professional to maintain your trees, you should be able to spot a southern pine beetle infestation and deal with it before you suffer extensive tree loss and damage. Depend on professional advice for the best results and make sure that your trees receive plenty of water.