Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Agent, Benton, Linn and Polk Counties
I recently got a call from a fellow whose Douglas-fir trees were covered with globs of pinkish pitch. It looked kind of like candle wax drippings on a Chianti bottle in some Italian restaurant, except it was on the trunks of his trees. As we talked I discovered that it was not an old stand, and the landowner had been out during the nice weather last summer and pruned his trees up six or eight feet to make it easier to get around and to reduce the risk of fire down near the County road. The pitch blobs were at the pruning scars.
The culprit here is the Sequoia pitch moth (Synanthedon sequoia), a common clear-winged moth that attacks many conifer species.
Although commonly seen in town in people’s shore pine and other ornamental pine species, it is not generally a problem on Douglas-fir, or native Valley ponderosa pine except when the tree is wounded. A common and very attractive wound is easily created by pruning live branches during the summer months (April thru September) when the bark is soft and the adult moth is active. Although unlikely to kill your trees it is unsightly and generally avoidable.
Prevention is the best cure.
So this summer, put down those pruning shears. Save that job for the winter months.
Have an image of pitch moth on Douglas-fir you would like to share? email firstname.lastname@example.org