Termites in Pine Trees (Signs of Them + Treatment Options)

Trees

Some people have written to me after seeing termites in their pine trees (or other conifers) on or near their property. Seeing termites anywhere near your property can make you understandably nervous. I have a more general article about termites infesting trees here and you can learn about tree termites here (by the way, most termite species can infest trees.)

In this article, though, I’ll address some specific questions and concerns I’ve heard about termites in pine trees and stumps, including whether termites are attracted to pine trees, how to prevent termites from infesting pine trees, whether you need to worry about termites infested pine trees near your home, and how to get rid of termites in pines.

Let me know if you have questions about anything I didn’t cover via my contact page or by leaving a comment. If you want professional help with termites in your trees, you can answer a few questions below and we’ll get you free, no-obligation quotes from several companies:

About termites in pine trees

The first point of confusion is often about whether termites can live in or infest pine trees and if so how vulnerable pines are to termites. I’ll discuss this in this section.

Can termites live in pine trees?

Termite can and will eat pine trees. Termites seem to prefer hardwood trees, but termites can eat anything containing cellulose and pine roots, trunks, branches, and bark are all composed of cellulose. So, pines can attract termites. But termites seem to prefer dead portions of conifers rather than the living. This means if your pine tree has a dead branch, termites can take up residence in it.

Termites just under the bark of a pine tree near Yangpyeong, South Korea

Are pine trees prone to termite infestations?

Most trees have some level of vulnerability to termites. As mentioned above, if termites discover dead portions of trees (trunk or branches), the termites can infest these areas even if the remainder of the tree is healthy.

Conifers as a whole don’t seem to be more vulnerable to termites than other types of trees but you should check with your university extension about whether they’re are specific evergreens in your region that are prone to termite infestations.

Are all pine trees vulnerable to termites? Or are some more vulnerable than others?

Specific pine trees vulnerability to termites compared to other is contingent upon the regions you live in because different regions have different termite species.

For example, UF/IFAS assistant professor of urban entomology and faculty member at the Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, Thomas Chouvenc, found that slash pines in Florida can be ‘lethally stressed’ by the invasive Formasan termites.

Parts of pine trees that termites attack

You now know that termites can infest pine trees. You may now wonder, what parts of pine trees do termites eat?

Do termites only eat dead pine branches? Are pine trunks safe from termites? What about pine roots? In this section, we’ll discuss what parts of pine trees termites can attack.

Do termites eat pine tree roots?

Subterranean termites can eat pine tree roots. It’s feasibly for drywood or dampwood termites to eat exposed pine tree roots as well, but this would be unusual. Subterranean termites can discover living or dead pine tree roots under the soil but one advantage that pine trees have is their downward-growing roots.

Pine trees’ taproots grow downward whereas other trees have heartroots and flatroots that grow outward. Downward-growing tap roots makes it easier to implement a soil barrier treatment for termites because you can more feasibly dig a trench around the base of pine trees to apply termiticde.

You can try trenching for termites around heartroot or flatroot trees too, but it is very difficult to do without damaging the trees roots (since the roots spread out from the tree).

Video showing termites in a pine tree in Brisbane, Austrailia. The termite inspectors drilled holes in the tree and saw termites coming out, a sure sign the pine was infested. Their treatment plan (for the tree) was to inject drill holes with Termidor.

Do termites eat pine tree bark?

Even though pine tree bark can be rough and jagged, it’s composed of cellulose. Since termites eat cellulose, they can and will eat pine bark, but they tend to eat inner pine bark more than outer pine bark. More often, termites will tunnel through outter pine bark to get to a dead portion of your pine.

Do termites eat pine branches?

Termites can and do eat pine branches because they’re made of cellulose—termites’ food source. If your pine has branches with signs of termite infestation, (unless drywood termites found their way to the top of a dead pine tree), you should remove that branch.

You can call a tree company or do it yourself, but most tree companies have the experience to analyze the overall health of the tree. This can be helpful toward determining whether you can save your pine or if its time to say goodbye.

Do termites eat pine needles?

Termites don’t pine needles but pine needles to trap moisture in the ground, making the soil under pineneedles attractive to subterreanean termites. Because of this, it’s good to dispose of excess fallen pine needles on your property so they don’t attract termites toward your property or trees.

Do termites eat pine tree stumps?

Termites will eat pine tree stumps. Stumps tend to decay quicker than standing dead trees. This means drywood, dampwood, and subterranean termites can can all eat dead, decaying pine stumps.

Do pine trees attract termites?

Pine trees can attract termites but so can anything with cellulose. If you regularly remove dead pine branches, when they turn brown, rake up excessive pine needles, and don’t place mulch around the base of your pine trees, your pines shouldn’t attract termites anymore than other types of trees.

How can I deter termites from pine trees?

To prevent termites from eating a pine tree, ensure you promptly remove excessive pine needles and branches that fall down. Trim dead branches that are still attached to your pine too. And, remove any mulch that you have near the base of your pine trunks (most people don’t mulch around their pines, but in case you do, get rid of it). All of these are cellulose-containing items or moisture-trapping items and attract termites toward your pine trees.

Can I save a pine tree from termites?

If your pine tree is infested with termites, it’s likely the tree was already dying or dead. However, current research shows that invasive Asian subterranean termites (aka Formosan termites) can eat living pine trees too. You can check whether you state has problems with Formosan termites or not here.

Video showing how to inspect trees for termites. These steps apply to most trees.

Signs of termites in pine trees

You now know what termites can infest pine trees. But how can you know if there are termites eating at your pine beyond seeing them? Unfortunately, subterranean termites that attack pine trees can do quite a bit of damage to pines before you notice. In this section, I’ll share some things you can look out for.

What are some signs of termites in pines?

Subterranean termites that infest pines will usually leave shelter mud tubes extending from the ground up the pine trunk (some can go quite high). If you see mud tubes or termites themselves on pine trees, you likely have a subterranean termite infestation.

Another thing to look out for is if your pines starts looking unhealthy without any other signs of fungus or disease. If this happens, you might want a pest control professional to inspect your pine.

Also, you might find winged termites (swarmers) emerging from your pine or the ground around it. This indicates an established termite colony exists in or under your tree.

Video showing termite swarmers emerging near the base of a pine tree trunk.

How to get rid of termites in pine trees

If you find evidence of termite activity on or around your pine trees, your next step is figuring out how to exterminate the termites infesting your pine.

The first step is correctly identifying which type of termite attacking your pine. You can learn more about determining different types of termites here, but generally, it’s subterranean termites that attack pines from the base and drywood termites that attack dead branches.

If you have a tough time identifying the type of termite infesting your pine trees, either contact a pest control professional or snap a photo of the termites, mud tubes, discarded wings, or whatever evidence you see of them.

You can send this to a university extension in your area and they’ll often help you identify the termites. Or you can upload your photos here and I’ll try to help you identify the termite species (though I’m not as good at this as your university entomologist).

How to treat termites in pine trees

The first step in treating termites in pine trees is to remove anything you can that attracts them. This is often mulch around the base of the pine trunk, but can also be excessive pine needles (because they, like mulch, trap moisure), dead but attached pine branches, as well as fallen pine branches.

Clean all those up.

Subterranean termites on pine trees

Then, assuming you dealing with subterranean termites, you can try to apply liquid termiticide around the base of your pine. Pine’s taproots extend mostly downward, which makes trenching around a pine easier than trenching around other trees. Or you can try a termite bait system, which is designed to give the termites attacking your tree poisoned food they’ll take back to the termite colony.

Drywood termites on pine trees

If drywood termites are attacking your pine, they’re likely only attacking a dead portion of your tree (branch or turnk). You’re best option for a dead branch infested with drywood termites is to cut it off. If drywood termites are infesting part of your pine’s trunk, you’re pine might already be dying. To know for sure, it’s best to contact a tree professional.

Can Termidor be used on pine trees?

Termidor is not designed or labeled to be used on trees. It is only designed to be used around buildings/structures. But, some folks claim Termidor doesn’t harm trees and works for treating subterranean termites infesting pine trees. They dig a trench around their pine infested pine tree (around 6 inches deep and 6 inches wide). As you fill the trench back with soil, mix the Termidor solution with the soil.

After treating pine trees for termites, can they come back?

Termites can come back even after you’ve treated a pine tree for them. The typical pine tree termite treatment involves liquid termiticide poured into the soil around the tree or termite bait systems. Both of these treatments target subterranean termites quite well but even if you eradicate the subterranean termite colony currently attacking your tree, new subterranean termites can arrive later on.

Liquid termiticide treatment lasts approximately 5 years when applied to a trench around a house, so expect around 5 years of protection for your pine trees. Termite bait systems need to be regularly monitored for termite activity and bait should be placed when termites are detected.

if they happen to discover dead branches on your pine trees, drywood termites can infest the dead branches any swarming season. This is why it’s important to keep your pines trimmed.

What if I need to cut down a pine tree with termites?

If you need to get rid of pine trees that are infested with termites you should go ahead and remove the pine stump with the tree and have the wood hauled away from your property in a timely manner.

Don’t leave the pine stump because doing so can leave a subterranean termite colony food and protection to continue living in your yard or property. They might then spread to other pine trees or buildings. Stumps can also attract other termites later on as the stumps decompose.

Termites in pine tree stumps

Quite a few people also write me after seeing termites on a pine stump near or on their property. In this section, I’ll address some common questions I’ve heard about termites in pine tree stumps, including whether termites are attracted to pine stumps, how to prevent termites from infesting pine stumps, whether you need to worry about termites in pine stumps near your home, how to get rid of termites in pine stumps if you find them there, and more.

Video showing termite swarmers emerging from pine tree stump. Swarmers are a sign of a mature termite colony.

Do pine stumps attract termites?

Pine tree stumps can attract termites. Dampwood and subterranean termites are attracted to decaying wood. From the ground, they can discover an old pine stump and infest it. It is possible for them to move from a pine stump to your home, so removing the pine stump is a good idea if you find termites or signs of termites on a pine tree stump in your yard.

How to prevent termites in pine tree stumps

The most reliable method is to completely remove the pine stump, but some folks prefer keeping certain pine stumps for aesthetic purposes, as seats, or as memories of a beloved tree.

Whatever the reason, if you don’t want to remove it, treat the top and sides of your pine stump with three or more coats of polyurethane wood sealant. This will not make your pine stump termite-proof, but it will deter termites for some time.

You could also apply termiticide around the stump or install termite bait stations, but doing so is quite a bit of work for a stump.

What to do about termites in a pine tree stump near your house

If you find termites in a pine stump near your house, it’s best to contact a pest control professional to get your home inspected. It’s possible that termites migrate into your home from an infested pine tree stump near your house—particularly if they’re subterranean termites—so you want to rule that possibility out.

You should also remove the pine stump, but that will not necessarily destroy a subterranean termite colony because they live in the ground under the pine stump, only using the stump for food.

Removing subterranean termites’ food sources might cause them to explore nearby for new food sources. This exploration may push them toward your home. This is why it’s best to have a pest control professional take a look and offer you some options.

How to treat a pine tree stump for termites

To exterminate termites in a tree stump you can try using Dominion 2L insecticide.

Drill some injection holes and pour Dominion 2L into the pine stump, letting it seep in. You can also dig a trench around the stump (the roots may make this difficult, but pine roots are easier to trench around than many other trees) and pour Dominion 2L into the trench to get to subterranean termite colonies in the soil near the pine stump.

An easier option is to simply remove the pine stump but before doing so, it’s a good idea to exterminate the termites, particularly if they’re subterranean termites, so they don’t spread to other trees or your house (assuming they haven’t already).

Again, if you know you have termites in a pine stump, it’s best to get a professional termite inspection to ensure termites didn’t make their way to your home.

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