Washington, DC (June 18, 2008)- A pine beetle epidemic in Colorado is killing hundreds of thousands of trees and turning the state’s forests brown. Elise Thatcher, a producer for Colorado Matters on Colorado Public Radio, says there have been problems with the bugs, also known as bark beetles, in the past but never on this scale. “The trees out there are all at the age that it is just right for the beetles to munch on them,” Thatcher says. “They are approximately 80 to 100 years old and at that age it is really hard for them to fight back.”
Warmer temperatures this year have only made problems worse- allowing the beetles to reproduce quickly and go higher in elevation. Over a million and a half acres of forest land are affected by this infestation including Vail, Steamboat Springs and other key ski and tourism areas.
Homeowners and ski areas are trying to save individual trees by spraying them with pesticides, but Thatcher says that may not work. “You have to do it just right and that is hard to do,” she says.
The answer to the problem may only come from new growth- the beetles tend to leave young trees alone so a diverse population could keep the insects from stripping the forest bare. But Thatcher says, for that to happen, logging and fires would be needed to clear out the old trees. “There are lots of little tree areas already growing up so it’s important to know it’s not a wasteland out there, but we do see lots and lots of dead tress,” Thatcher says.
NPR Morning Edition- Pine Beetles Threaten Western Trees
A Bit of Background on Bark Beetles
Trees Hit by Beetles May Fuel Town’s Buildings
Bark Beetles Spark Western Fire Threat