Pine Wilt Noticeably Worse In Kansas This Year

By: Jared Cerullo Email
By: Jared Cerullo Email

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You may have noticed a lot of dead pine trees around the area this year. Across the state, more and more pine trees are dying because of what is known as pine wilt. The disease is caused by a worm or beetle that invades the tree and can easily spread.

"I saw a brown limb up there on the top and it just gradually came on down and that was it," said Norb Rohling, who lives in West Wichita.

Pine wilt is not new. It's been spreading through Kansas since the early 70's, but this year has been noticeably worse. You can drive down just about any street in Wichita and find a dead pine tree.

"These went real fast," Rohling said as he pointed to both of the dead pines on his property. "They start dying at the top and I'd say within 4-6 weeks, they were gone."

"They're trying to isolate it in the western part of the state," explained Bob Neier, Sedgwick County Extension Agent. "Here, it's running rampant. We're not going to stop it. We expect to lose most of our Scotch Pines."

Once it starts, Neier says you can't reverse it. But it is preventable if you're willing to spend the money. Otherwise, it's just better to re-pant another evergreen variety instead of a Scotch Pine or Austrian Pine. Neier, meanwhile, says the damage to the tree's life support system is obvious when you look at a cut trunk.

"They call this blue stain fungus," Neier said. "It's mostly black now, but as the tree died, any branch bigger than two inches in diameter, the pine wilt will find that."

If you have a tree that is suffering from pine wilt on your property, Neier says it's best to get it out as quickly as possible so the beetles don't leave the tree and find another one nearby.

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