Why Are There Squiggly Lines On Your Pine Tree's Bark?

When you look at your pine tree's bark, do you see squiggly little lines that look almost like something crawled across the tree? Chances are, your tree is affected by the pine bark beetle. These beetles eat their way across the bark, leaving those squiggly lines you're noticing. Here's a closer look at this pest and what you need to do about an infestation.

What is the pine bark beetle?

Pine bark beetles are tiny pests that you can barely see if your naked eye. They look a bit like fleas, but their bodies are a bit more round. The beetles take up residence on pine trees, chewing their way beneath the bark, and then creating tunnels across and through the bark. They also lay their eggs under the bark. When these eggs hatch, the larvae work their way deeper into the tree's wood, where they leech nutrients out of the wood and interfere with the tree's ability to transport water and nutrients to its extremities.

What problems do pine bark beetles cause?

The squiggly lines on the bark should be the least of your concerns. The more serious symptoms to look for include needle loss and death of entire branches. The needles may turn yellow, then red, and then brown before falling off the tree. Entire branches may become bare of needles within a few weeks. You may also notice some wood dust at the base of the tree. This is left behind from the beetles chewing through the bark.

What do you do about a pine bark beetle infestation?

Though an infestation with pine bark beetles can be deadly (often because it weakens a tree's defenses to other diseases, such as root rot), there are some things you can do to fight it and help extend your tree's life.

  • Keep your pine trees well-watered. This will help keep the tree in good health so it can fight off the beetles, and it will give it more resources to work with as it struggles to provide water to the needles.
  • Clean up fallen needles quickly. They may harbor fungi that can infect your already weak tree and accelerate its death.
  • Have a tree care company come spray your tree with insecticides.

Many pine trees are destroyed by pine bark beetles. If you are not successful in treating the infection, make sure you have the tree removed from your property so it does not serve as a breeding ground for beetles that will go on to infest other trees. Contact a company like Southern Tree Care, Inc. for assistance.