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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - May 03, 2011

From: Cedar Creek, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests, Trees
Title: Possible sawflies on loblolly pine (Pinus taeda)
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

My pine trees looked great a week ago, now one from top to bottom is almost without needles. It is covered with greenish caterpillars. They have several stripes down their back . Could these be saw flies? These are large loblolly pines, about 50 ft tall. We have watered the trees and spread compost yearly and trees looked well. What can I do and is it too late? We never use chemical controls and always try natural and organic methods. Thanks so much.

ANSWER:

Your description does sound like one of the pine sawflies such as Neodiprion taedae linearis (loblolly pine sawfly) or Neodiprion lecontei (redheaded red pine sawfly).  Indeed, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension issued a Sawfly Alert on April 27, 2011. Here is an article, Pine Sawflies, from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and here is information from the U. S. Forest Service and from Ohio State University Extension about the life cycle, damage to trees and control measures for N. lecontei. The good news is that the U. S. Forest Service says that southern pines—this includes Pinus taeda (Loblolly pine)—can survive complete defoliation.  The April 2009 article, Pine sawfly in northeast Texas, from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension says that pines that are defoliated usually recover.  Both the U. S. Forest Service and Ohio State University Extension offer suggestions for biological and mechanical control measures as well as chemical treatments.  You may be able to use mechanical means to remove the larvae; but since your infestation sounds very heavy, you might want to consider using chemical means to control them.  The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension articles above suggest effective pesticides and "Insect and Mite Control on Woody Ornamentals and Herbaceous Perennials" from Ohio State University Extension has general information on chemical as well as other treatments.

 

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