How can I tell if my mature pine trees are dormant or dead? I cannot reach the branches. They recently lost their needles after turning brown in July/August. One still has a few pine cones on it.

Many pines suffered during the drought-like conditions that the Houston area, including Missouri City, experienced during the summer of 2009. Many were attacked by pine bark beetles and subsequently died. Look for pitch tubes (pine bark beetles) on the trunks, sawdust on the ground (ambrosia beetles) or in the bark crevices, or listen for munching sound (sawyer beetles). These are all indications that your trees are dead or soon will be dead. Regardless of beetle attack, a pine cannot survive being brown from July/August until November. Even if no beetles attacked the trees, they simply cannot survive that long without any green foliage. They are likely dead. Pine cones tend to remain in trees after they are dead, and are not a reliable indicator of tree health.

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