Colorado Has Over 830 Million Dead Trees Due to Bark Beetles

Bark BeetlesA Touch of Class Tree Service knows how important it is to control an infestation
accurate before it spreads. Did you know that Colorado has over 830 million dead trees due to bark beetles? Those numbers are staggering and saddening to say the least. You’ll typically see these dead standing trees spotting the beautiful forest line, and they currently number about 1 out of every 14 trees. The impact of the bark beetle is to blame, and its preferred meal of choice is to devastate spruce-fir and lodgepole pines.

What exactly is a beetle-infested tree?

It is a green or living coniferous tree that is the site of a bark beetle attack. External symptoms of a beetle infestation include a popcorn-like mass of resin called “pitch tubes” on the trunk and boring dust in bark cracks at the tree base. Approximately nine to ten months after being attacked, the needles of infested pines will turn a reddish-brown color. Internal symptoms, which cannot be seen unless the bark is removed, include the beetle’s distinctive tunnel system, wood which is stained a bluish-gray, live eggs, larvae, pupae and adults in the phloem layer of the tree.

What is a beetle-killed tree? A coniferous tree that has succumbed to a pine bark beetle attack. The foliage will be discolored in early summer, as well as the other signs of a beetle attack mentioned above. This is evidence that bark beetles have killed a coniferous tree.

So why are these bugs so out of control?

Well, it’s safe to say that the number one culprit is climate changes that are affecting almost everything in our natural world. Bears no longer have enough pine cones to supplement their diets, the beautiful scent of pines while walking through the forest seems to be diminishing, and real estate even is taking a hit because of the unsightliness of these diseased trees turning up on prime real estate properties. But some people seem to think that maybe these bugs know more than we do. Insects are often mirrors of the environment, and they can act as a barometer of changes that are taking place in our ecosystems. The only way they subside is when the weather freezes them off, or they run out of trees. Perhaps, it’s time to listen carefully and learn more about these little creatures.

When our forests are left with diseased and dead bark beetle kill trees, the chances of extreme forest fires and diminished water supplies in the state begins to increase. Fortunately, the Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) has been taking extreme measures in the following five aspects to help get this beetle infestation under control.

  1. Watershed Protection: The complexity of watershed systems and processes make it difficult to predict the effects of the bark beetle outbreak on runoff quantity and quality. Measurement would certainly be difficult to detect accurately because of a number of variables influencing these effects, including annual precipitation and other climate factors. 
  1. Reducing the Risk of Wildfires: Although the effect of fire suppression on bark beetle outbreaks varies by forest type, region, and the level of forest management, it is fair to conclude that fire suppression policies have helped generate a landscape that is more homogeneous over vast tracts of forest, and more susceptible to large-scale bark beetle attacks.
  1. Providing Seedling Trees for Restoration: It’s only natural to combat the problem by planting more trees to replace those lost.
  1. Colorado Wood Utilization and Marketing Program (CoWood): This group provides the public with information, education and outreach to help improve the health of our forests.
  1. Disease and Pest Detection Measures:
  • Solarizing – Wrapping cut trees in 6ml clear plastic sealed around the edges with soil.
  • Burning – Moving dead, cut trees away from non-infested, high-value trees for burning.
  • Chipping – Chipping branches and logs into small pieces with powered equipment.
  • Stripping – Removing the bark completely from cut logs to expose beetles to the elements.
  • Hauling – Relocating infested trees to where beetles cannot jump to healthy trees.

How can you manage bark beetles around your home?

ELIMINATION: If the tree, shrub or plant is too far gone, be sure to get rid of it so as not to spread to other healthy trees.

SELECTION: Only plant species that are adapted to the area and avoid host trees. Redwoods and Cedars are good choices.

LIMIT TREE STRESSES: Poor planting practices, crowding, and lack of proper care all lead to weakness. Proper irrigation and pruning are also a must, along with yearly maintenance and inspections.

BIOLOGICAL CONTROL: Infested trees attract predators and parasites. Woodpeckers, certain flies, and wasps love to eat bark beetles, but it is not likely they will be able to get it under control.

INSECTICIDES: Some chemicals have been known to rid the bark beetle, but it will take a professional who knows the extent of the damage to treat your trees with this manner effectively. If the bark beetle is not detected in the larvae stage, the chances of an insecticide working are very minimal.

BEHAVIOURAL CONTROL: Some research has been done on the effectiveness of certain pheromones that will trap the bark beetle, and while it has suppressed or reduced the number of insects, it cannot eliminate them.

In Colorado, private landowners are responsible for deciding how to address forest health issues on their properties, which collectively account for 30% of all Colorado’s forested landscapes. However, they are not alone when determining how to accomplish effective forestry methods and reduce the risk of hazardous wildfires. It will take the effort of all forest landowners working together on a massive scale to address the health of the forest and reduce fires situations

Now that you are aware that Colorado has over 830 million dead trees due to bark beetles, you are well equipped and ready to do your part, along with the help of A Touch of Class Tree Service, to get you started on your property and surrounding areas.

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