Brown Pines due to Southern Pine Beetle damage

Salvage Removal:
A Method for Controlling Southern Pine Beetle Infestations

Forest insect and disease pests cause an estimated growth loss and mortality in excess of $8 million each year in South Carolina forests. An integrated pest management (IPM) approach on your forest lands could significantly minimize your potential losses. Efficient utilization of damaged or killed timber is an important part of forest IPM.


Forestry Leaflet 6
Revised October 1997


The Southern Pine Beetle

The Southern Pine Beetle (SPB) is the most destructive pine bark beetle in the South. SPB infestations commonly originate in poorly managed or overstocked stands. Once underway, outbreaks can spread rapidly, killing trees over hundreds of acres, and move into managed stands.

SPB infestations can be identified in several ways. The most obvious symptom is the change in the needles of the tree crown from green to yellowish to reddish brown. Other symptoms are listed in the table below.  For more information on identification and the life cycle of the SPB, see Forestry Leaflet No. 5, Identifying the Southern Pine Beetle.

Tree Stage Symptom
Foliage Pitch Tubes Bark Exit Holes Ambrosia
Beetle Dust
Freshly Infested Green Soft, white,
light pink
Tight, hard
to remove
None None
Infested With Developing Brood Green trees with larvae; fade to yellow before brood emerges White,
peels easily
Few, associated with attacking adult reemergence White, localized areas around base of trees
Dead Tree
Red, needles falling Hard, yellow, crumbles easily Very loose,
easily removed
Numerous Abundant at
base of trees

Initial infestation is followed by the development of a "spot." The spot usually spreads in one direction as new trees are attacked in an area called the "active head." (see Figure 1)

The risk of SPB infestations can be reduced by practicing proper forest management. However, when infestations (spots) do occur, direct control tactics are needed to minimize timber losses.

Salvage Removal

Salvage removal is the preferred control method since infested trees are removed and utilized, giving the landowner some financial return.  For salvage to be effective, SPB infested trees must be removed very quickly. An adequate buffer strip of uninfested green trees must also be cut around the active head(s) or spreading edge(s) of the spot.

Diagram illustrating harvesting of Pines preventing the spread of Southern Pine Beetle
Figure 1. Untreated Southern Pine Beetle Spot

Diagram illustrating harvesting of Pines preventing the spread of Southern Pine Beetle
Figure 2. SPB Spot After Salvage Removal

 When to Apply Salvage Removal

Salvage may be applied at any time of the year when ground conditions permit. Prompt treatment after spot detection will minimize additional timber loss from spot growth. When salvage of a spot is not feasible or must be delayed for long periods, active infestations should be treated by the cut-and-leave method. (See Forestry Leaflet No. 7, Cut-and-Leave)

How to Apply Salvage Removal

  1. After a spot has been located, identify all infested trees (those with SPB eggs, larvae, pupae, or attacking adults) within the spot (Table 1). The most recently attacked trees will be in the active head(s) of the spot. Spots with the most infested trees should be marked for treatment first.
  2. With marking paint or flagging, mark the salvage boundaries. If freshly attacked trees are present, include a horseshoe-shaped buffer strip of green, uninfested trees around the active head(s) of the spot. The buffer should be as wide as the average height of the trees in the spot (40 to 60 feet). The buffer is necessary to disrupt spot growth and to ensure that no freshly attacked trees are left.
  3. Salvage should begin as soon as possible after marking the boundaries. Cut and remove buffer trees first to prevent further spot growth. Continue harvesting toward the spot origin until only those dead trees that have deteriorated beyond use remain (see Figure 2).
  4. Do not deck infested logs next to green trees since emerging beetles may attack them.
  5. Avoid damaging standing green trees along skid trails since open wounds attract certain bark beetles.
  6. After two weeks check the treated spot for reinfestation (breakouts) around the edges of the spot. Treat breakouts as needed.

The buffer strip of green trees must be included to assure effective control. If salvage operations are delayed, active spots may have to be marked again before harvesting to account for additional spot growth.

Financial Return from Salvage Removal

The financial return from the salvage of SPB-infested timber will vary according to several factors. These include the total volume and size of the trees, their current market value, the accessibility of the spot, and the type of harvesting equipment used. After the trees within the marked boundaries of a SPB spot have been harvested, additional uninfested trees may be selectively thinned from the adjacent stand, if needed, to complete the final load or increase the total volume to improve the price received.

Glossary of Terms

  • ACTIVE HEAD(S) OF SPOT - Area(s) of the spot containing beetles in the process of attacking green pines.

  • INFESTED TREE - A pine containing southern pine beetle broods (eggs, larvae, or pupae) or attacking adults.

  • BUFFER STRIP - A group of green, uninfested pines that are cut adjacent to the most recently infested trees in the spot.

  • SPOT - A group of dead or dying pine trees infested by the southern pine beetle.

  • SPOT BREAKOUT - An infestation of green pines on the outer edge of a spot following a control treatment.

  • SPOT GROWTH - The natural expansion of untreated spots as additional green pines become infested in the active head of a spot.
  • SOUTHERN PINE BEETLE - A small, dark brown beetle that can be identified by the S-shaped galleries or tunnels that it makes under the bark of attacked trees.

Additional Information

Keeping your pine timber stands healthy and vigorous, and having a good knowledge of the southern pine beetle habits and symptoms is essential to effectively deal with this destructive pest. Professional advice and assistance is available through the South Carolina Forestry Commission, Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service, U.S.D.A. Forest Service, forest industry personnel, and private consulting foresters.


Department of Forest Resources