These are small insects the size of mouse poop. They have a hard cylinder shaped body and appear as brown, black or dark red in color.
The bark beetles population can translate into the billions as there are 2000 plus species. With such a massive number of species, their populations can rise exponentially because they are able to survive through mild winters. Now that summers are starting earlier than usual, it is not surprising that bark beetles are able to breed two generations in one summer further pushing up their numbers. This insect lives and feed on trees. This has caused tree mortality to shoot up to the tune of 40 plus million acres. That is alarming for trees and entire ecosystems.
The female bark beetle targets trees that are frail or dying, after landing on one, she will hail other bark beetles by emitting a pheromone signal which they can follow with ease.
These will fly to her in their hundreds. They will bore through the bark all along releasing fungi that turns the trees’ matter into sustenance for her brood. When they get to the phloem, a resinous layer that separates the sap wood that transports nutrients within the tree from the outer bark, they will lay their eggs in tunnels. These eggs will spawn a new beetle generation which might stay in the same tree or fly out and infest nearby trees. Bark beetles act as a culling agent for the old, weak and sick trees.
Signs of Bark beetle infestation
Trees fight off a bark beetle invasion by unleashing a sticky resin that flushes them out. The resin also plugs the holes leaving small extensions of white or brownish plugs on the outside of the bark.
If this resin plugs are white then the tree has been able to block the bark beetle successfully. Brown plugs means the beetle in all likelihood has been able to bore its way into the tree.
When the resin washes out of the beetle holes, it pushes frass before it , a dust like substance that beetles create as they drill their way into the tree.
If you see Frass collected at the base of the tree and around the roots, it very like that that tree is infested with bark beetles. You may not be able to see them by just looking at the tree. However, when you pry away parts of the bark, and drill tunnels are revealed, you are likely to see dead bark beetles and rotten inner bark. That is a sure sign that the tree is infested and most likely the other trees in the vicinity.
The needles of pine trees will turn a brownish color starting from the top and in some trees the leaves will turn a dull green followed by yellowing and end up becoming reddish brown.
Prevention of Bark beetle infestation
Trees around our homes make us feel good with the scents they emit and make our days brighter with their flowers and colors. These trees could use a little help to keep them safe from the menacing bark beetles.
Where the bark beetle is concerned, taking a proactive approach is the best strategy. Get a professional arborist and work with them to make a plant health care plan. This should include watering, mulching and fertilizing. It is such proactive measures that ensure the trees are healthy and less susceptible to damage. Insecticide can be applied proactively by a professional pest control officer to stop beetles before any infestation.
If your tree is infested with the bark beetle, the best option is to have it removed by a professional before it spreads to the other trees.