If you consider our pine trees to be one of the stand out features of our mountain landscape then yes it is very much under attack!
This is because of mountain pine beetle epidemic that has ravaged our trees for centuries and has become much worse over the last 10 years. These mountain pine beetles have been known to kill large numbers of trees that are not vigorous or under stress.
Some examples of likely beetle infestations are trees that are:
- In poor growing conditions
- Under watered
- Fire or mechanically damaged
- Root diseased
Unfortunately, in 2012 we have seen record low snow during the winter which helps the beetle in two major ways.
First, the breeding cycle of the beetle is determined by the weather making it so the beetle will breed one time a year and stay dormant throughout the snowy winters but with the winters being warmer than usual the beetle flies more often having two to three breeding cycles, exacerbating the problem.
Second, the lack of water from the warm winters makes the trees dehydrated putting stress on them making them more susceptible to mountain pine beetle.
We have seen dramatic increases in beetle infestation whenever there are short winters and drought conditions are in place.
After the beetle has killed a pine tree we are left with a fire hazard, kindling for the next wildfire. Currently there is a devastating forest fire above Fort Collins in western Larimer County.
If you own pine trees and you want to keep them alive we recommend watering the trees 15 gallons per dbh.
Although watering the tree will greatly help If you wanted to do all you can for your trees we recommend a deep root fertilization in addition to proper watering. This will feed the tree nutrients and break up the soil allowing for air and water to penetrate the roots easier.
If your tree is already infected by the beetle you can either cut it down but preventative sprays before the beetle attacks are the only full proof way to defend the tree