Pine Beetles, Power Lines & The Art of Chopping Trees

Pine Beetles, Power Lines & The Art of Chopping Trees

Aug 14, 2010 |  by  |  On the Homestead, Wildlife Management  |  Share

There are two main ways to learn things in life:

  1. From your own experience and mistakes
  2. From someone else’s experience and stupid mistakes

If you’ve never cut down a tree and you have the slightest inkling to do so, then consider this entry as a gift from yours truly. My stupid mistake can be your treasure.

The Ips Beetle or engraver beetle is an insect that infests stressed or weak pine trees by feeding and laying eggs in the inner bark of the tree. Usually, they’re not problem because they typically limit their attacks to weak trees or trees that have recently fallen, but in Texas and other hot and dry states, long periods of drought can stress the trees, making a beetle attack more likely. This is particularly the case for young pine trees less than 10 years old. In our case we had a very large, mature pine that showed evidence of being struck by lightening. I imagine this lightening strike injured and weakened the tree to some degree, increasing it’s susceptibility to being overrun by the engraver beetle. There were a few other dead pines, most already in their deceased state when we moved in just a couple months ago, but it was the big papa tree that we were mostly concerned with cutting down. Shortly after we moved in I began seeing evidence of Ips Beetle infestation including pitch tubes along the bark and boring dust at the base of the tree. Then the grim reaper of trees, the pileated woodpecker, started showing up, signaling the demise of another beautiful pine.

It was time to start cutting. And fortunately my new friend, Andre had the tools and experience necessary for the job. But before we got started, I did a little pest investigation by peeling back a bit of bark on the tree, which revealed loads of these tiny, yet fully grown beetles. It looked as though there was more than one type of beetle working beneath the bark, but I wasn’t entirely sure, so today I went out and collected a few samples to help with some further research.

chopping trees 02 300x200 Pine Beetles, Power Lines & The Art of Chopping Trees

Beetles found behind a small strip of bark.

So Andre got to work cutting and since it was a dying tree (not dead), it was still quite moist and difficult to cut. We knew when the tree finally fell it would most likely get hung up on one of the surrounding trees and it most certainly did. A considerably smaller pine was suddenly carrying the weight of its much larger kin, severely bowing under the pressure. So I made the decision to cut the smaller tree, which would allow the larger one to fall. And this is when the excitement started. Just check out the video below to see what I mean. Keep in mind that with Andre cutting the smaller tree, he’s in the direct path of the big pine’s fall. So when you hear me yell, that was to keep Andre from getting smushed.

chopping trees 06 225x300 Pine Beetles, Power Lines & The Art of Chopping Trees

Small pine bowing under pressure.

Watch for the small flash of light in the background around the 31 second mark. Yep, that was the power transformer flashing as the weight of the fallen tree snapped the power lines in two. My last yee-haw came before realizing we had just cut the power to ours and our neighbor’s house. Brilliant of me to forget about something that important, eh?

Now I’ve gotta give Andre credit. That tree landed exactly where he intended it to land and had he known what was overhead he would have certainly angled it in the opposite direction.

When the guys from the power company showed up they were extremely forgiving given the fact all they probably saw were a couple goons who had no idea how to chop a tree. The gray haired gentleman, who was old enough to be my dad, kindly explained how to use a wedge to properly control the direction a tree falls. I just nodded my head and thanked him for the info.

We’ll see how thankful I am when I get my next bill.

Helpful links:

Detailed info about Pine Engraver Beetles from the Texas Forest Service

Great video tutorial on the proper way to cut a tree.



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