Amarillo, TX - A pest uncommon to the area is infesting trees around the panhandle.
The European elm bark beetle is so small, you can hardly see it with the naked eye, but the toll it's taking on area trees is huge.
Various bark beetles have been in Amarillo for years, but none that have devastated trees like this one. The lengthy drought followed by record-breaking rains have created the perfect conditions for the insects to feed and reproduce at a rapid rate.
"When you have a drought as severe as as what we had, and then you come out of that and you have all this rainfall, it's like a perfect storm. The insects had a weaker tree and now they've got good conditions to live and so we're seeing a lot of damage to a lot of trees," says Arborist Matt Johnson.
The tiny beetle is having an impact on various types of elms, cedars, pines and evergreens to name a few. However arborists tell us all trees are susceptible to being taken over by the pest.
The beetle tunnels into the trunk of the tree through a tiny hole about a millimeter in diameter. In severe cases, the bark may begin to buckle or fall off in chunks.
Matt Johnson says he has even seen cases where the beetles have killed trees.
"On some of the trees, pitch tubes, sometimes you'll see the bark separate, other times you'll see exit holes. The foliage will start to yellow and maybe even some small twig die back."
With the beetles being so difficult to see, Johnson says the key is doing a bit of research and spraying a special insecticide.
"When you're dealing with a pest, you can just go down to your local garden store. But this is a little bit more technical. And so they need to call their local arborist to come out and tell them exactly what to do. It's a little bit more specific technique to treat for this type of insect.
Johnson says prior to this year, the beetles were an abnormality. And now arborists hope to get their presence back to normal.
Workers at Arborlogical incorporated tell us they have seen over one hundred infested trees over the past few weeks.