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Extension advice: Understanding beetles, damage they cause
Richard Evans
Richard Evans is UGA Extension Service agent in Bryan County.

Pine beetles are usually not a problem now, but our mild winter has encouraged many insects and weeds to get an early start this year. They are usually more of a warm-weather pest.

However, it’s also possible that they may have been here awhile and we have just noticed them. Probably our early dry summer weakened the trees and made them susceptible to beetles.

Actually, there are three types of pine beetles: the southern pine beetle; the black turpentine beetle; and the ips engraver beetle. Although all three beetles feed the same way, they can be identified by where they attack the tree.

Beetles bore through the bark of a tree and then feed on the sapwood. The beetles make tunnels or “galleries” under the bark where they live and reproduce. The tree will usually die from lack of water. The beetles also carry a fungus on their bodies. This fungus hastens the death of the tree and often stains the wood, making it less desirable. The southern pine beetle is one of the most destructive pests of pine in the South. It attacks all varieties of pines but prefers loblolly, shortleaf and Virginia pines. The beetle is about 1/8-inch long, reddish-brown to black, with a notch in his forehead. The southern pine beetle will attack the tree at any height and can kill a tree quickly. Often the first sign of an attack is the browning of the foliage in the top of a tree. Often, by this time, it is too late to save the tree.

Black turpentine beetles can also be found here in Bryan County.

This beetle attacks the lower part of pine trees.

These are the largest beetle, about 1/3-inch long, dark brown to black with a more rounded rear end.

The damage from a turpentine beetle is easy to identify. The entrance holes are larger so large amounts of pitch leak out. This pitch dries and form white pitch tubes, which are easy to see. Black turpentine beetles will even attack stumps of cut trees. Ips engraver beetles are a large family of beetles that prefer to attack tops of pines. They are second only to the southern pine beetle in the numbers of trees they kill. They are smaller, about 1/5-inch long, dark red-brown to almost black with a scooped out rear end. Often sawdust will be found at the base of ips attacked trees. Pine beetles prefer to attack damaged trees.

They can smell oozing sap and will usually hone in on it. Once trees are attacked, it is very difficult to eradicate the beetles.

Therefore, prevention is the best policy.

If pines are badly damaged, lightning struck or leaking lots of sap, they need to be cut down and removed or protected by a chemical spray. Spray the cut stumps to keep black turpentine beetles out. Trees should be removed from the property since beetles will continue to emerge from the tree even after it is cut. Woodpeckers and other natural controls will keep the numbers of beetles down somewhat.

Once again, prevention is the key to reducing damage from pine beetles.

Spray valuable trees with a solution of lindane.

For more information, call the Bryan County Extension Service at 912-653-2231, email us at or see the GFC website for more information at www.gfc. forest-health/ pine-bark-beetles/SPBFactsheet. pdf.

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