What Trees are Attacked?:
The southern pine beetle (Dendroctonus frontalis) is one of pine's most destructive insect enemies in the Southern United States, Mexico, and Central America. The insect will attack all Southern Yellow Pines but prefers loblolly, shortleaf, Virginia, pond, and pitch pines. Ips engraver beetles and the black turpentine beetle are frequently associated with southern pine beetle outbreaks.
How SPB Kills Trees:
The beetle creates S-shaped egg galleries that criss-cross one another in the innerbark and on the wood surface. These galleries girdle the tree which will soon brown and die. The first indication of beetle-caused mortality is discolored tree foliage. Needles become yellowish, then change to a red color, and within 1 to 2 months become brown. Typically, pines are killed in groups ranging from a few trees to those covering several hundred acres.
The Southern Pine Beetle Range:
The SPB generally occurs the southern and southeastern United States (AL, AR, DE, FL, GA, KY, LA, MD, MS, NC, OK, SC, TN, TX, VA, WV). Southern Pine Beetle range roughly follows the natural range and distribution of loblolly pine, Pinus taeda L. SPB has occurred as far north as Pennsylvania and New Jersey and as far west as Arizona and New Mexico.
Prevention and Control of Southern Pine Beetle:
Natural enemies, including diseases, parasites, and predators, can help maintain beetle populations at low levels. However, they seem to have little effect during epidemics. Immediate removal of the infested trees with a green buffer is the most effective control method. Prevention is most effective by thinning crowded pine stands and trees with low growth rates and vigor. Approved insecticides can be effective but are expensive and only used in high value stands of trees.