Kingwood inundated with pine beetles

HOUSTON The Southern Black Pine Beetle is a household name, especially in communities like Kingwood. While infestations are common these parts, the pine trees are made even more vulnerable during extreme heat and drought.

Kingwood is called the livable forest for a reason. Just look around.

"The trees were a major part of our decision to build on this property," said homeowner Ray Guard.

As mighty and majestic as these pine trees are, many are in jeopardy, lurking in some of them are hundreds of thousands of tiny critters. They may be half the size of a flea, but they're being called the single largest threat to pines. Not just in the Houston area, but across the entire southern Gulf Coast region.

"This is the adult pine bark beetle," said Louis Flory of Ability Tree Experts.

With no known natural predator, these pine beetles are wreaking havoc. They are a force so destructive that an infestation can kill an otherwise perfectly healthy tree in a matter of hours.

"This is like a flea infestation up underneath there," said Flory.

Using their teeth and front particles, these bugs dig holes no bigger than the tip of a ball point pen. First, the beetle pierces the bark then severs the tissue that conducts food and water, leaving behind sawdust. It doesn't take long for the canopy to blister in the hot sun.

When a pine tree is drained of all its food and water, the bark from the tree literally begins to peel away, not just in pieces but in sheets.

"These things keep migrating and there's no stopping them hardly," said Flory.

Our blistering hot summer and lack of rain has put more pine trees in distress which causes them to secrete sap. The aroma attracts the beetles. The only prevention is to spray a tree with chemicals before it's overrun.

One pine tree in Guard's backyard has to come down. It was infected only a week ago.

"I figured it would spread to all the surrounding trees if I didn't do something quickly," said Guard.

Flory, the tree expert, said on average he cuts down at least 600 trees a year because of pine beetle infestations.

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