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Mr. B Kills Some Beetles

June 15, 2011

Mountain Pine Beetle

Mountain pine beetle has become one of those topics that you just can’t go more than a few days without talking about (at least it seems that way to me). Several people I know are studying pine beetles for their masters/doctorates, everywhere you go you see evidence of them, and there is always the question: what can we do? Along with white pine blister rust, mountain pine beetle has been decimating pine trees across the west, including our property.

Beetle Killed Trees

We noticed the dead trees the first time we looked at the property, but I didn’t give them much thought. I am a non-tree person and was more concerned about the invasive weeds and riparian areas. We had Mark Vander Meer from Vander Meer’s Wildland Conservation Services out on our property this weekend though, and Mark quickly pointed out that the trees had been killed by beetles. While most of them were killed several years ago, Mark said that one of the trees still had beetles in it, and that the beetles would be emerging within a few weeks.

Some beetle background: mountain pine beetle (MPB) is a native to the US. In late summer, beetles emerge from the trees and fly to new, live trees. Hormones help focus beetle attack on individual trees. Beetles bore into the tree and mate, laying eggs along a tunnel between the bark and the tree. The eggs spend the winter in the tree, hatch and feed between the bark and the tree, and then emerge in mid-summer to start the cycle again. The beetles also carry a fungus, bluestain fungus, on their mouth parts. Once introduced to the tree, the fungus spreads into the sapwood. This disrupts the flow of liquids, probably preventing the tree from forcing the beetles out with sap. Finally, the tree dies from lack of moisture. You can see this blue staining on the wood in the picture above. One tree can carry enough beetles to attack several other trees, so Mark encouraged us to destroy the tree with live beetles quickly.

I was expecting a stream of burning beetles to pour out of the logs while I laughed maniacally, but really it was a standard bonfire. We did see one beetle come out of the tree, but it went back in right away.

Besides burning trees, we also continued taking the house apart. By 8 pm, we had the entire floor (including floor joists) up. The entire house is now spread out , taking up way more room than in its standing state.


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