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Question of the Week
Q: Help! There are little cream colored “maggots” falling from our pine trees all over everything. What are they and what can be done about them?
A: We’ve had a number of calls about this issue here at the Education Center lately. What you are seeing are pine catkin sawfly larvae.
The adults, which are actually small wasps, emerge from the soil in spring to lay eggs on the male cone buds of pine trees. Pines produce both male and female cones. The male cones produce pollen, while the females develop into the pine cones we traditionally know and recognize. The eggs hatch in spring once enough heat units have accumulated, and the larvae feed on the male cones as they grow. Some researchers believe this reduces the quantity of viable pollen, but concern is minimal as pines are prolific producers of pollen. Once finished feeding, they drop to the ground to pupate, which is why you see large numbers falling to the ground out of trees now.
There are no measures that home gardeners need to take as these insects do not damage the pine trees in any measurable way. As you are seeing them drop, they will soon burrow underground not to be seen again until next year. The only effect that their feeding will have is to reduce the amount of pollen the pine trees shed, which should come as good news to allergy sufferers this time of year.
Extension FACT SHEETS