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Cleanup, Patience Best for Damaged Trees
In the wake of the recent ice and snow damage to Georgia trees, your best response is to clean up the mess and leave the rest alone.

"For pine trees that are bent over from the ice, the rule of thumb is to give them the next growing season to straighten up," said David Dickens, an Extension Service forester with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Young trees are likely to straighten up, he said. Older, bigger trees, though, may not recover.

Old Trees Too Top-heavy

"Beyond a certain physiological stage, generally somewhere around 10 to 12 years, pine trees become too top-heavy to straighten up," he said. "If they haven't straightened up after a year, it's best to go ahead and remove them."

Where the weight of the ice snapped off pine limbs and even trees, Dickens said, cleanup is important. The potential for increased beetle activity this summer makes it important to clean up the downed trees and limbs.

Pine bark beetles drawn by the resin oozing from damaged trees bore through the trees' bark and lay eggs underneath. The larvae carve out feeding galleries under the bark and introduce a fungus called blue stain. The feeding and the fungus cause branches and even whole trees to dry out and die.

Ips Beetles Major Problem

"In the Georgia coastal plain, the major problem is Ips beetles," he said. "Black turpentine beetles can also be a problem."

Since Ips beetles will move into downed trees and branches and begin spreading from there, he said, you're left with three choices:

  1. Remove the downed trees and branches. This may be the best option for yard trees.
  2. Burn them, where that's possible. In a state where the wildfire threat is high, burning carries some risk, whether you pile up the limbs in your yard or conduct a prescribed burn. In either case, be sure you get a burning permit first from the Georgia Forestry Commission.
  3. Spray the remaining trees with an insecticide labeled for pine bark beetles. Get details on the best insecticide treatment from the nearest county office of the UGA Extension Service.
Southern Pine Beetles

From the Piedmont up into the mountains, Dickens said, trees are more vulnerable to Southern pine beetles. These beetles spread fast and can take out huge tracts of pines, so it's important there to monitor trees and quickly identify any beetle damage.

Ice damage to hardwood trees is usually less harmful to the overall health of the tree, Dickens said. Cleanup is still important, though.

"You may also want to saw off jagged limb stubs even with the branch collar," he said. "Or get a qualified arborist to do it. That will make them less inviting to insects and diseases."

(Dan Rahn is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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