Pine bark beetles are an invasive species in many areas of the United States and are a particular problem in southeastern states, especially North Carolina. They tend to infest dying or weakened pine trees, and they kill them shortly after infestation due to bark damage and obstruction of water and food passageways. If you’re wondering how to get rid of pine bark beetles and save your trees, you’ve come to the right place!
In this guide, you’ll learn:
- How to Identify the Pine Bark Beetle
- Signs & Causes of Infestation
- The Top 5 Ways to Get Rid of the Pine Bark Beetle
- How to Prevent Pine Bark Beetle Infestations
If trying to exterminate pine bark beetles on your own becomes too challenging, we recommend Orkin, Terminix, and Aptive. These exterminators have some of the best-trained professionals that can use traps, baits, and other chemically treated solutions that are often more effective than standard DIY methods.
For Terminix quotes, you can reach them at 866-506-2303, or with this form.
For quotes from Orkin, call 877-831-3660, or fill out this form.
For a free quote from Aptive, call 855-426-9774 or visit the company’s website.
Ed has been working in the pest control industry for years helping 1,000's of homeowners navigate the world of insect and rodent management. He manages Pest Strategies now helping homeowners around the world!
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How to Identify the Pine Bark Beetle
Identifying a pine bark beetle infestation will be your first step in getting rid of the invasive pests and helping your tree survive.
Pine bark beetles are extremely small insects, generally ranging from around 2.5mm up to 6mm in length. They have dark brown or black bodies and rows of small spines running down the length of their backs. They’re very difficult to spot, especially since they bore inside your tree and remain virtually undetectable while they feed on the inner bark.
The best way to confirm a pine bark beetle issue is to identify signs of an infestation rather than the bugs themselves. Below are the most common symptoms of a pine bark beetle problem.
“Frass” or Dust On Your Trees
As pine bark beetles feed on the inner bark, they leave behind a rusty brown or reddish dust near their entry holes, also called pitch tubes. This dust is usually the first indication of an issue and should immediately trigger you to take action.
If your infected pine tree is still thriving or even partially alive, it will likely leak sap from any area of damage to the bark. Luckily for those with a pine bark beetle infestation, this holds true for the insects’ pitch tubes. If you notice sap oozing from areas on the tree bark, take a closer look and see if you can identify the beetle’s boring hole.
Pine bark beetles are named after the method by which they feed, which is to bore into the bark of a tree and meander through the inside bark and sapwood. Although it’s not advisable to remove bark from a tree, if a piece does happen to fall off, you can confirm an infestation by finding channels dug into the sapwood.
Southern pine beetles tend to develop an S-shaped tunnel, pine engraver beetles move in a “Y” or “H” pattern, and black turpentine beetles create large gouges that move downward from the pitch tube.
Don’t Be Fooled By Other Bugs!
When you’re identifying pine bark beetles, make sure you confirm the insect type carefully. June bugs are often mistaken for pine bark beetles because of their similar size, shape, and color. However, they live in your lawn and feed on grass and shrubs rather than boring through tree bark.
Other beetles common in areas where pine bark beetles are prevalent can also look similar. Remember: seeing a small, black beetle isn’t confirmation of a pine bark beetle infestation. You should always check for pitch tubes, frass, or symptoms of pine tree death to confirm. You can also call in an arborist for a professional opinion.
How to Get Rid of the Pine Bark Beetle
Once you’ve identified pine bark beetles in your tree, chances are slim that the tree will make it. Since weakened trees emit chemicals that attract this beetle, you have to move quickly. Immediate treatment can help the tree survive, but tree removal might be required. Below are the top five ways to get rid of pine bark beetles.
1. Sylo Insecticide
Your first option is to spray your infected tree liberally with Sylo insecticide, which is likely available at your local hardware store. Its active ingredient, Cypermethrin, can kill off pine bark beetles that have not yet bored into your otherwise healthy tree, so immediate application is crucial.
2. Dominion 2L
Dominion 2L, another insecticide available at your local hardware store, is one that you can apply to the soil around the tree. The infected tree will take in the active ingredient, which will then be present in the sapwood the beetles are consuming.
3. Get Professional Help
If DIY insecticide application isn’t working, you might opt to call in a professional arborist or exterminator. These experts likely have an applicator’s license, which allows them to use more powerful commercial insecticides, like Dursban 4E and Sumithion 8E.
4. Use a Boring Hole Application
If you’re concerned about spraying insecticides on your property, you can try using one that gets applied inside the boring holes. A product like FS+ Multi-Purpose Insecticide produces minimal overspray and can kill beetles in each infested pitch tube.
5. Remove the Tree
Unfortunately, many pine bark infestations result in the need to remove the tree entirely. Doing so will help limit the risk of the infestation spreading to other trees, which is a foregone conclusion if the issue is left untreated.
June bugs are often mistaken for pine bark beetles because of their similar size, shape, and color.
However, they live in your lawn and feed on grass and shrubs rather than boring through tree bark.
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How to Prevent Pine Bark Beetles
Treating pine bark beetles is challenging, so preventing an infestation is often a better option. Below are the three best ways to keep pine bark beetles away from uninfected trees.
1. Dominion 2L
Dominion 2L, mentioned as a treatment above, can also be sprayed on your tree as a preventative measure. Application with a sprayer every few months during the beetles’ active season will drastically reduce the chance of a problem.
2. Proper Pruning
Carrying our regular and responsible pruning will help keep your tree healthy, which will assist it in avoiding an infestation. Use a pruning paste made of diatomaceous earth to protect the cut areas. If you’re unfamiliar with good pruning practices, hire a professional.
3. Mulch Around Your Trees
Mulch can help reduce the chance of a pine bark beetle infestation because it helps keeps roots healthy and properly watered. Weakened trees are more susceptible to beetle infestations, so mulch will improve your yard’s aesthetic and help keep the invasive insects at bay.