There’s an epidemic in Colorado. It isn’t the flu or plague or any of that kind of stuff.  Oddly, it’s a beetle.

The Mountain Pine Beetle, to be exact, and it’s killing our trees.

Official description: Mountain pine beetle (MPB), Dendroctonus ponderosae, is native to the forests of western North America. Periodic outbreaks of the insect, previously called the Black Hills beetle or Rocky Mountain pine beetle, can result in losses of millions of trees. Outbreaks develop irrespective of property lines, being equally evident in wilderness areas, mountain subdivisions and back yards. Even windbreak or landscape pines many miles from the mountains can succumb to beetles imported in infested firewood.

This photo was taken earlier this summer in the Rocky Mountain National Forest near Estes Park, roughly around 8K feet.

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In that photo, you can see an infected tree surrounded by healthy trees – the color is distinctive.  You really can’t miss them.  Taking a closer look:

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You would almost think it’s simply the leaves turning, but they aren’t.  It’s summer, after all.

The mountain pine beetle epidemic is crazy, killing thousands of trees.  Treating the infestation is difficult.

Some facts:

  • Once MPB infests a tree, nothing practical can be done to save that tree.
  • Under epidemic or outbreak conditions, enough beetles can emerge from an infested tree to kill at least two, and possibly more, trees the following year.
  • The direction and spread rate of a beetle infestation is impossible to predict.

It’s a terrible thing.  In this shot, you can see how the beetles have spread throughout the forest:

Click for a larger view

All that reddish/brown – those are infected, dead or dying trees.

I don’t have a message here, don’t have a conclusion – it’s a big deal and I thought the folks who hang out here from time to time should know about it.


1 Comment

  • FARfetched Posted October 19, 2010 12:40 pm

    Pine beetles are common on Planet Georgia as well. A few years ago, we got them and a timber company paid us some $$$ to clear the pines off the place. Of course, there’s thousands of little pines doing their dangdest to re-establish themselves among the oaks and scrub.

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