Wellington landcape and forestry officials are blaming a beetles for the dwindling population of the village’s pine trees.
A type of pine bark beetle, called the Ips engraver beetle, lives in the inner bark of pine trees, where it breeds and feeds on its tissue, said Brian Hopper, a landscape and forestry operations supervisor for Wellington.
Once the beetles fully colonize, they create fungus that ultimately kills the tree, Hopper said. In just a few days after the beetles attack, a pine tree will show rapid changes in the color of its needles, from a dark green to brown.
“Unfortunately, people usually don’t notice their tree is being attacked until it is too late. Once the tree is so severely infested that all its needles have turned brown, then its chance of survival is slim,” Hopper said.
But how did the beetles get to Wellington and why are they attacking pine trees?
“They are native beetles to the area and are attracted to stressed pine trees,” said Mark Torok, a state forester for Palm Beach County. “When the pine trees are stressed, they release a pheromone that attracts beetles to its bark.”
Torok said the majority of pine trees in Wellington were already there before homes and urban areas were built. Irrigation, construction, and weekly lawn maintenance stresses trees, making them vulnerable to the beetles.
The decrease in the pine tree population could also threaten wildlife in Wellington, Torok said. Pines trees provide numerous animal species with a source of food and shelter.
To help prevent pine trees from being attacked, city officials advise residents to provide spacing of about 15 to 20 feet between trees, maintain proper soil nutrients and provide deep watering during extended drought periods.