Southern Pine Bark Beetles

SPB Damage ImageSouthern pine bark beetles cause more damage to southern pine timber than any other forest insect in Alabama. On average, the state loses 60,000 pine trees a year during a southern pine bark beetle outbreak that totals approximately $800,000 in economic loss. Of course, during an epidemic episode, the amount of economic and timber loss is greatly increased.

Southern pine bark beetles generally attack less vigorous or stressed pines, especially ones weakened by a continual drought, storm damage, strong winds, severe fires, old age, prevailing diseases, tree competition, and other insect infestations. Most southern pine species, if not all are vulnerable, but depending on the particular beetle, some pines are more susceptible than others.

With three groups of southern pine bark beetles in the southeast reeking havoc on pine trees; each one has its own distinguishable features and characteristics. The three groups of southern pine bark beetles are the southern pine beetle (SPB), the Ips engraver beetle (IEB), and the black turpentine beetle (BTB). Each beetle will initiate an attack based on specific causes and each will basically attack a different area of the tree. Even its rate of spread to the next pine is scantly different based on the beetle species.

Of the three, the SPB is the most aggressive and more likely to attack healthy pines. The IEB and the BTB tend to only attack weakened, stressed, or damaged trees. The IEB and BTB, however, have a slightly greater host list than the SPB. The SPB generally does not attack slash or longleaf pines unless these pine species are extremely stressed.

Management recommendations and control methods for these southern pine bark beetles are also quite specific depending on the particular beetle. The bark beetle species must be positively identified before implementing a control strategy. One constant prevention method that applies for all southern pine bark beetles is to maintain healthy, vigorous trees. In all, healthy, vigorous pines are the most successful management strategy for preventing bark beetle attack.

Additional Resources:

A Field Guide to Identifying the Most Common Forest Pest of Pine Plantations
 Current Southern Pine Beetle Advisory and Flight Data