Pine Bark Beetles are Killing East Texas Trees

Thousands of East Texas trees are dead because of scorching temperatures, dry ground, root damage from Hurricane Rita, and pine beetles.

Entomologist Joe Pase said, "Some of those trees that have had root damage, broken tops, and that kind of stuff may still get beetles in them because of Rita. Most of what we're seeing right now though, is related to the dry weather and lack of rain."

The microscopic menaces aren't eating the wood of the trees, they're feeding off what's called the cambium - the area between the bark and the wood.

"That's the only visible damage they do to the tree," said Pase. "The wood is not damaged, but by doing this under the bark, they kill the tree by killing the conducting cells that feed the tree."

If you have trees around your home, watch them closely. Sometimes it's easy to tell if they're dying. The needles on pine trees will turn red if they're damaged, but other visible signs will appear before that happens.

Pine beetles usually kill drought-stressed, damaged trees that are already dying and it doesn't take long. In about 25 days, new eggs become full adults, invade a tree, and move on.

An average pine tree in someone's yard measures about 12 to 14 inches in diameter and can cost more than $200 to remove.

Once beetles get into a tree, that tree cannot be saved, but insecticide treatments to prevent infestation are very difficult and expensive.