If you’ve been in Colorado in the past few years, you’ve probably heard about the devastation of our forest by the mountain pine beetle (Dendrochtonus ponderosae). This small bark beetle is big trouble for our conifers, killing millions of pines over 1,900,000 acres.
Feeding under the bark of our native pines, the beetle – and its hitchhiking companion, blue stain fungus – cut off the water transports of the tree, killing it within a year. Some areas of our forest have suffered huge losses, changing the face of the area; what once was a conifer forest is now a sunny glade with few or no trees.
Young trees will spring up in these areas, but like a recovery after fire, the ecosystem of that location is altered for generations. Dead, brittle trees left standing pose a risk from falling, or worse, fire.
If you think the problem is limited to our native forests, think again. Hits on trees by the mountain pine beetle are being found in cities up and down the Front Range, thanks to a wind event that picked up a cloud of flying beetles and blew them, like Dorothy and Toto, miles from the forest.
Unfazed by the change in locale, the bugs began exploring their options, assessing urban trees as a buffet of exotic dishes. And these critters like some of them, especially Scotch and Austrian pines. Fortunately, these trees have access to a little more moisture and are a bit more successful at pitching out the invading bugs (where sap flow captures and pushes the bug out of the tree).
There’s not much we can do, but there is something, and it’s outlined in a nifty new publication called “A Northern Front Range Landowner Guide to Living With Bark Beetles.” Free, this 12-page tabloid paper is a wonderful compilation of information on the beetles, their life cycle, preventive spray, pheromone pouches, wildfire prevention and other tips for managing your trees.
Simply put, this is a must-have information sheet for every homeowner with property in our forest.
Contact your local Colorado State University Extension office to pick up your free copy, or if you live outside the state, put your request here as a comment (with your email address) and I’ll email the PDF to you.