June 19, 2008

State: Don't spray trees for pine beetle too soon
By Pamela Lawson

Residents who are already spraying for pine beetle infestation in the Conifer and Evergreen areas are being urged to use caution by state forest service representatives.

The epidemic in Grand and Summit counties is prompting some residents to take pre-emptive steps to protect their trees in hopes of preventing a similar outbreak here.

But spraying trees prematurely with insecticides may not provide the hoped-for results.

“If you spray too soon, it can wear off,” said Jonas Feinstein, stewardship forester with the Colorado State Forest Service in Golden. “The idea is to spray close enough to when the beetles are emerging and flying so that it is essentially there to kill or deter them.”

That time is about now, in June and July. But spraying is effective only if the bugs are nearby.

The beetles migrate only a mile each season, Feinstein explained, which means it could be a few years before they reach the area, if they ever do.

In the meantime, spraying too soon can produce negative outcomes.

“Sprays are toxic — they do have an effect on the environment,” Feinstein said. “The unintended consequences of spraying (results in) killing other beneficial insects like honeybees and spiders … and nesting songbirds — those creatures in the woods that make a forest a forest.”

Feinstein said localized infestations are different than those being experienced in Grand and Summit counties.

One such report circulating through the Indian Hills community about a possible infestation at Mount Falcon is not related to the epidemic, he said.

Feinstein said people might be noticing what he described as infestations in the “endemic background population that exists at any given time.”

“Beetles are always present,” he said. “They are a natural part of the landscape. They will take out a group of trees but not necessarily an entire hillside.”

Tree companies may be encouraging local spraying, he said.

“You see the ads that trees service companies put out. To their credit, they are trying to capitalize on a situation that does require attention to some degree,” Feinstein said. “But it’s certainly not at that level (locally) …”

Feinstein said it’s important to note that the epidemic is so far affecting only lodgepole pines. And if it arrives in the local community, areas such as Brook Forest and Bergen Peak that have a high number of lodgepoles would be most at risk.

“What we have seen thus far is that epidemics taking place in Grand and Summit counties are predominately lodgepole,” he said.

Thus far in the high country, it does not appear that the bugs have moved into ponderosa pines.

When the infestations occur, they happen quickly, but it takes time for the bugs to reach new areas, and there are signs before they do.

The beetles have crossed the Continental Divide and have moved into the Georgetown area, he said.

“The beetles usually fly no more than about a mile a year. That’s a lot of time for it to possibly get here. It may take 10 years for it to make a run of 50 miles,” Feinstein said.

It’s up to the discretion of homeowners if they feel inclined to spray, he said. To start now before the infestation is present would require annual sprayings to ensure effectiveness, and that’s hard on the environment.

But if people take the proper steps to protect their properties, clearing fuels and thinning trees, that also helps.

“Fear is a strong motivator,” Feinstein said. “One of the best things that can possibly come out of this is people actually doing something more meaningful — long-term results — creating forests that are happy and healthy on their properties.”

Contact staff writer Pamela Lawson at Pamela@evergreenco.com

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