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Pine Beetle Infestation: To Treat Or Not To Treat?

By Zoe Kline and Roxanna Sears, Community Adventure Program Students, 1st Quarter 2004

Pine Beetles are becoming an increasingly widespread problem in Colorado and neighboring states. According to Tom Eager, US Forest Service entomologist, in an article appearing in the Rocky Mountain News on July 12th, 2004, Ips and twig beetles have killed 65 to 70 percent of pinon pines in southwestern Colorado since 2002 and could possibly kill up to 80 percent if the drought continues. The Mountain Pine Beetle is the species of pine beetle most prevalent in the area surrounding Boulder. It is killing high percentages of ponderosa, lodge pole, and limber pines. As a class, the Community Adventure Program at New Vista High School decided to research possible solutions to the pine beetle infestation issue in Colorado.

After extensive research and talking to several land managers, we have reached the conclusion that the best thing we can do in response to the pine beetle infestation is to treat infected trees as little as possible and let nature run its course. Our class is taking this position for several reasons. First, the Mountain Pine Beetle is a native species of Colorado. This means that our ecosystem has natural ways of controlling the pine beetle population. For example, when temperatures drop below zero for a prolonged period of time the pine beetles are killed. Forest fires also wipe out the infested areas and sometimes the pine beetles consume all the trees in an area and wipe themselves out by destroying their own habitat.

Sometimes not treating infested trees can put homeowners and their property at risk. In this case, the imminent negative impact of the pine beetle infestation makes it necessary to treat or remove infected trees. This is true when pine beetles infest moderately populated areas. In such areas the dead trees could potentially increase the fire danger and pose a safety hazard to residents. Popular tourist attractions, such as National Parks and State Forests, are another instance where it might be beneficial to remove pine beetle infested trees. Infested trees might decrease the number of people who visited these sites thereby potentially harming the local economy.

In situations such as these, the most environmentally conscious way to treat infested trees is to avoid using chemicals. The chemicals used to treat pine beetles, such as Lindane and Carbaryl, can get into the surrounding environment and harm fish and wildlife. There are other equally effective methods of treating infested trees that do not harm the environment. The solar treatment method involves cutting down infested trees, wrapping them in plastic, and exposing them to sunlight in order to suffocate the beetles. It is also possible to remove infested trees and place them in an area at least two miles from other vulnerable trees. Finally, another environmentally safe solution to pine beetle infestation is pheromone baiting. Pheromone Baiting uses pheromones to attract pine beetles to a concentrated stand of trees. This solution is not feasible for Boulder County because our public lands are broken up in patches and we do not have an area large enough to implement this method. Whether or not trees are treated for pine beetle infestation and no mater what method is used to treat them, once a tree is infested it cannot be saved.

While the issue of pine beetle infestation is not widely publicized, the decisions that homeowners and land managers make regarding the treatment of infested trees have an impact on the environment and therefore the general public. For this reason, it is crucial that the public be aware of pine beetle treatment methods in their area and we would encourage those treating pine beetle infested trees to use the most environmentally friendly methods available.

For more information about the Community Adventure Program at New Vista High School, please visit our class website. For more information about the Mountain Pine Beetle, please visit the Colorado State Forest Service.

Categories: Action Projects

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One Response to “Pine Beetle Infestation: To Treat Or Not To Treat?”

  1. Wayne Masters

    Well I don’t see pine beetle infestations near busy highways. Do noisy trucks keep them up all night or do the stinky fumes repel them up the hills?
    What about Moringa companion planting, something like this?
    Jimi Hendrix records played either too loud or out of key? I don’t know, did you try every test imaginable?
    Wayne in Salmon Arm, BC


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