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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Pine Tip Moth Monitoring Begins

LAS CRUCES - New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service will monitor the Nantucket pine tip moth population in Albuquerque and Santa Fe this spring to determine critical control times to prevent insect damage to ponderosa and other ornamental pines.

Proper timing reduces the number of insecticide applications needed to protect ornamental pines from disfiguring damage, said Bob Cain, NMSU forest entomologist. "For insecticides to be effective, they need to be applied in the short period of time after eggs hatch and before larvae bore into the growing buds and shoots," he said.

Pine tip moth pheromone traps will be set in parts of Albuquerque and Santa Fe to attract male moths, which are active during the egg-laying period.

Previous Extension studies in Albuquerque suggest that controlling the first generation of moths prevents significant damage to the trees, Cain said. Hatching dates for the first generation vary from year to year, but usually occur in early May in the Albuquerque area.

In areas where buds have not yet expanded, homeowners should trim the old, dead shoots off the trees and collect and destroy them. This removes many of the overwintering pupae, Cain explained.

New Mexico has at least eight different species of pine tip moth. All species feed on the shoots and new growth. "Injury is most severe on trees under 15-feet tall that may be stunted or deformed by heavy infestations," Cain said. "The Nantucket pine tip moth, introduced to the state in the early 1980s on infested nursery stock, causes the most severe injury to landscape pines planted in many parts of New Mexico."

The moth is most abundant in southern New Mexico and along the Rio Grande Valley into Albuquerque. It was first noticed in Santa Fe about five years ago and has become more common there every year since.

Ponderosa pines in northern New Mexico and Afghan pines in southern New Mexico are most severely damaged. Heavily infested trees are easily recognized by the hollowed-out, dead shoots, Cain said.

While most species produce one generation per year, the Nantucket pine tip moth goes through two or three. Newly hatched larvae feed for a short time at the base of needles. They then bore into new growth on the trees. The point of attack is marked by a small resin flow. The larvae are orange to brown and from one-half to three-quarter inches long when full grown.

Insecticides can be effective in controlling pine tip moth if applications are timed correctly, Cain said. Another option is planting species that are resistant to the moth, such as Austrian pine, Scots pine, limber pine, southwestern white pine or bristlecone pine, he said.

For more information about the moth monitoring, contact the Santa Fe and Bernalillo county Extension offices.