Small Pines Had Some Orange Needles That Dropped Off And Some Buds And Nearby Bark Are Black And Soft To The Touch

Question From: H. Canadian but using american zip code - Beverly Hills, California, United States
Q: Please do not tell me to call an arborist. I live in a small town in rural Newfoundland, and there are no arborists within a hundred miles of here. I bought and planted small pines four years ago. They are now about 4 feet high. There were some orange needles on the trees in August, so we suspected mites, and sprayed the trees with soapy water. We also put a couple of teaspoons of plant food around the base of the trees. The orange needles have dropped off the trees, and the trees are now mostly a healthy dark green colour. However, there are a couple of buds which are black, and soft to the touch: they are dead. THE BARK THERE IS BLACK, SOFT, AND COMES OFF IN YOUR HAND.This only extends in an inch or less from the bud. So, two questions. Is this disease, or is it a parasite? Secondly, is there something better than soapy water to stop mites?

A: Harry, I think you have a Nantucket Pine Tip Moth. It's the larvae that does the damage. If the dieback is not too severe you can remove them by hand or use a spray. Timing is crucial. Because pesticides are outlawed in Canada I cannot recommend one. I suggest you contact the Canadian Forestry Service. I use AzaMax here in Michigan for mites. It's made of Azadiractin from the neem tree and is OMRI listed. Safe for use around kid, cats, dogs etc. and can be used on edibles up to the day of harvest.