we were thinking about topping our tree to save it
The reason the pine tree is dying depends on the probability of the tree bouncing back, as it were. A common reason for the “top-to-bottom” death is an infestation of insects, particularly beetles, sawflys and weevils. If this is the case, you may want to spray some horticultural oil or insecticide on the tree to rid it of the adults and larvae during peak seasons. If, however, you discover that the infestation has reached the bottom of the tree, the chances of saving it may be slim to none. Otherwise, check the tree for any drought or root damage, which can be caused by digging, poor soil, or inadequate irrigation.
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