Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Beetles Attack Old Pines In Hendry

Oldest Pine Trees Most Affected

LABELLE, FL. -- Bark beetle activity is on the increase in southwest
Florida. In the counties of Hendry, Lee, and Collier, south Florida
slash pines are under great stress from droughty conditions
experienced over the last few months, according to Michael Weston,
Senior State Forester of the Caloosahatchee District for the
Department of Forestry. Heaped onto this stress are the past two
years' hurricane seasons, and the often deplorable conditions that
large pine trees grow in when surrounded by development. The likely
culprits are Ips engraver beetles and/or black turpentine
beetles. "We are fortunate not to have the aggressive southern pine
beetle this far south for a number of reasons, Weston said.

Concerned homeowners and landscape managers will likely see larger
pines, often the most cherished in their yards and land, afflicted as
the responsible insects target weak and stressed trees, which are
normally south Florida slash pines over 60 years old. Affected trees
will normally show a two week to one month color fade from a normal
green to orange and finally red with most of the needles staying on
the tree. Also, dime to quarter size patches of red sap will be
visible in buttons on the stem of the tree. All of the pine needles
on trees will be affected, and not just scattered tufts that are
normally associated with normal new needle growth in pines this time of year.

The key to prevent the loss of many of our pines is three
pronged. First, as land is developed, the growing space of the
remaining pine trees needs to be properly managed, i.e. not piling
fill dirt over roots. Second, pines will do best with a 2 to 3 inch
layer of pine straw that is refreshed annually to provide normal
inputs to their rooting zone. Third, more pines need to be
planted. Pine seeds drop naturally between the months of September
and November or seedlings can be planted. Seedlings are available
from private nurseries and the Florida Division of Forestry, along
with advice on how to plant and manage pines. "With planning, we can
continue to see pines tower over southwest Florida for generations to
come and provide wildlife habitat, shade, and other forest products."
said Weston.

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