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Mr. Smarty Plants - Dying Pine Trees in Texas

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Monday - October 05, 2009

From: Kemah, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders
Title: Dying Pine Trees in Texas
Answered by: Nina Hawkins

QUESTION:

I live on the water front street in Kemah, Texas. We took water in the entire neighborhood during Hurricane Ike. That's been a year ago and now I have noticed our pines trees are starting to die. I saw one in my neighbor's yard starting to yellow about 2 months ago and now I can see a dozen from my yard that are dead in the area. Whatever is causing this is moving rather quickly and appears to be going to infect them all. I'm thinking pine beetles maybe? Could the salt water be killing them even after a full year since the storm? All the other tree species seem fine but the pines have started dying one by one.

ANSWER:

You are likely right on both accounts.  Hurricane Ike and the subsequent year of drought conditions have stressed pine trees, making them prone to disease and insect attack.  There are several types of beetles that attack pine trees and you can contact your local Extension Office to find out if there is a particular pest causing damage in your area.  Also, the Texas Forest Service has a webpage (link below) that gives an overview of several different pine tree pests.  Based on your description, it sounds to me like you have Pine engraver beetles (Ips beetles).  Take a look at Evidence of Beetle Attacks on the Texas Forest Service website and compare your trees with the detailed photographs of Ips beetle colonization to determine if that is indeed the critter you are dealing with.  Unfortunately, the Texas Forest Service doesn't offer a chip of hope for pine trees already infested by the Ips beetle, advising home owners to promptly remove infested trees to prevent emerging adult beetles from attacking neighboring pine trees.  If your trees are not yet under attack, then prevention is your best and only defense.  When there hasn't been enough rain, water the trees slowly and deeply (1" to 4" of water every 10 days or so) beneath the canopy, but not right next to the trunk.  Avoid damage to the bark and limbs that could be caused by weed trimmers or pruning and damage to the root system caused by vehicles or construction equipment compacting the soil.  The beetles prefer to colonize sick and injured trees, so if you can maintain the health of your trees, the beetles will likely pass them up for weaker specimens.

Pest Management

Prevention & Control of Pine Engraver Beetles


 

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