5/17/04 - Pest Alert

Bark Beetle Insecticide

This note is to answer some questions regarding the bark beetle insecticide Onyx™, which became registered for use in Florida in late 2003. It is labeled for use as a trunk spray to prevent attacks by pine bark beetles (including Southern Pine Beetle, Black Turpentine Beetle, and Ips) on ornamental pines. In field trials it has been shown to provide several months (possibly to 4-6) of preventative control against attacks. Onyx is manufactured by FMC Corporation and the active ingredient is bifenthrin (23.4%). Some important things to know about this product:

Onyx is NOT registered for use in forestry settings, such as pine plantations and stands managed for timber. Currently, it is only legal for application on ornamental trees. The label states "For use on plants intended for aesthetic purposes or climatic modifications and being grown in interior plantscapes, ornamental gardens or parks, or lawns and grounds."

Onyx is not a restricted use pesticide. The general public can purchase Onyx from distributors that carry it. It costs in the neighborhood of $110 - $160 per quart, and is to be diluted at a rate of 1.0 to 2.0 pints [0.5 to 1.0 quarts] per 100 gallons of water.

It is NOT labeled for use as a cut-and-spray treatment for SPB-infested trees. Before they disappeared from the market, products like lindane and chlorpyrifos could be sprayed on SPB-infested bolts (after the tree was felled and bucked) to the point of runoff, to kill emerging beetles and thus help suppress local SPB spread, which was particularly useful in urban environments. Onyx is not registered for this use; rather, it is to be applied as a trunk spray to protect standing uninfested trees from beetle attack. The label indicates that it is to be applied with a sprayer "from the base of the tree to at least halfway into the live crown." One might be able to get away with a less-extensive application (lower 5 feet or so) if protecting specifically against Black Turpentine Beetle.

The active ingredient bifenthrin is a broad-spectrum insecticide that will kill a wide variety of insects, including some that are beneficial. Also, the signal word for this product is WARNING. May be fatal if swallowed and causes skin irritation and moderate eye irritation. Given the method of application for this product on trees (spray directed upwards, unless the applicator is elevated), anyone who intends to apply it needs to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves, others, and other non-target organisms; i.e. follow the label very carefully. Homeowners may want to contact a pest control operator (PCO) for making the application.

Insecticides have a place in bark beetle management, but it is a rather limited place. For some homeowners, a product like this may be worth a try on high-value ornamental trees (particularly those that are injured or stressed) in close proximity to trees actively infested with bark beetles (especially SPB). It is by no means a cure-all solution, however, as the insecticide does not remove the source of stress that attracted bark beetles to the location in the first place.

The manufacturer's presentation of Onyx™ and the label for the product can be accessed at

Prepared by
Send comments and suggestions to John Foltz.
Prepared 17 May 2004.
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