Pine bark beetles are insects that normally attack stressed and dying pine trees, and usually do not infest trees that are otherwise healthy and vigorous. They are attracted to the odor produced by wind-thrown trees and trees damaged or killed by nature or man. Living pine trees are infested when stressed by: drought, age, tree competition in overcrowded stands, disease, root rot, fire, hail, lightning, or other insects.
The native species of pine bark beetles found in Georgia are three species of Ips engraver beetles, the southern pine beetle or SPB, and the black turpentine beetle. A dying pine may have multiple bark beetle species feeding in it.
Pine Bark Beetles are the most important forest insect pests due to the catastrophic mortality they cause during outbreak periods. The southern pine beetle in particular, periodically causes massive losses in many parts of Georgia and should be taken into account with the management of any pine dominated forest.
All five species of pine bark beetles are naturally occurring insects to the southeastern United States, and epidemics of these pests killing vast expanses of pines was documented in colonial times. Environmental stresses to trees can’t be avoided, but good forest management that controls density within stands can create vigorous stands that tend to suffer less mortality during these outbreak periods.
The behavior and potential impact of these different types of pine bark beetles differ from one another in important ways, so it is important to determine what species of bark beetles are primarily involved in an infestation before choosing a control strategy. For all of these species, the best approach is to prevent infestations from starting, by using management strategies that promote good tree health and vigor.