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Black Turpentine Beetle

Black Turpentine Beetle, Dendroctonus terebrans (Olivier), is one of five common species of pine bark beetles in the southeastern United States. Black turpentine beetles bore into the inner bark of stressed or injured pines, where they breed and feed on phloem tissue. Adults are strongly attracted to volatile pine odors and readily breed in fresh stumps.

American Oil Beetle

Black Turpentine Beetle

Attacks on standing trees usually occur on the lower 1 to 2 m of the trunk or on large roots. Light attacks may kill only localized sections of phloem tissue, but numerous attacks per stem result in tree mortality. Infestations commonly occur in pine stands affected by recent logging activity, fire, mechanical injury, storm damage, climatic stress, or competition.

Adults are cylindrical, dark reddish-brown to black, and 5 to 8 mm in length. The head is convex in front and has clubbed antennae. The pronotum, the hard cover on top of the insect’s midsection, widens posteriorly and does not conceal the head when viewed from above. The rear end of the wing covers is rounded, which helps to distinguish Dendroctonus from the Ips engraver beetles.

Life Cycle: The black turpentine beetle adult bores through the thick bark plates and phloem to the sapwood. The primary feeding site is the lower 6 feet of the main trunk, but boring has been seen in buttress roots also, where there was no obvious trunk injury. Injury to the trunk causes resin to flow, resulting in the formation of a pitch tube as the resin hardens. An egg gallery is excavated on the inner face of the bark and scars, usually in a downward direction; and a row of eggs is deposited in this gallery. Hatching occurs in about two weeks.

American Oil Beetle

Black Turpentine Beetle

The white, legless larvae feed gregariously on the inner bark and several gallery colonies may completely girdle the tree. When the larva matures, it constructs a pupal cell between the bark and the sapwood. The pupation period, during which the larvae are transforming to adult beetles, is about 10-14 days in duration. The adults then emerge through the bark and the cycle is repeated. The length of the cycle is determined by the prevailing temperatures, and usually takes from 3 to 4 months to complete. Development is slowed during the cooler months. In the Long Island area, emergence of beetles can be expected from mid-April and will occur throughout the summer because of the overlapping of broods.

Damage: The black turpentine beetle can attack all southern pines. The beetle targets unhealthy or damaged trees, and newly cut pine stumps. Serious outbreaks are likely in forests being worked for turpentine, areas recently logged or thinned, and in stressed pines in urban areas..

Controls: Keeping trees healthy by avoiding injury to trees such as excessive grading around the roots and alleviating stress and competition with turf. Watering during droughts, if practical for a specimen tree, is the best means of preventing beetle attack, especially during the warm months of the year. If only a few beetles attack a tree (less than one pitch tube per diameter inch), control measures may not be necessary since the beetles are frequently killed by the flow of pitch in the tree. However, if the beetles are numerous, they should be destroyed before they lay eggs.

Black Turpentine Beetle larvae

Black Turpentine Beetle larvae

Often infested trees may be saved if control measures are applied in time. If only a small number of pitch tubes are present, the bark below the pitch tube can be shaved away until the tunnel or entrance is located, then chipping away the bark will expose the gallery and the insects and they can be mechanically destroyed. Or the pitch tube can be struck soundly with a heavy rubber mallet or sledge. This crushes the pitch tube, closes the entrance tunnel, and squashes the beetles and grubs in the gallery beneath.

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