Pine beetles land in Aspen |

Pine beetles land in Aspen

Charles Agar
Vail, CO Colorado
Jordan Curet/The Aspen TimesJoe Marsick, from Aspen Tree Service, cuts down a lodgepole pIne infested with mountain pIne beetle at an Aspen home Wednesday afternoon.

ASPEN ” Two trees in Aspen’s West End are infested with mountain pine beetles, the scourge that is devastating pines in Eagle and Summit counties and elsewhere, city parks and open space officials said.

“It’s here,” said Chris Forman, Aspen’s city forester. Forman could not say whether this is the beginning of a larger infestation that will spread to stands of wild trees throughout the Roaring Fork Valley.

“They came on Friday night. I knew instantly it was pine beetle,” said Christie Kienast, who on Wednesday watched a crew from Aspen Tree Service cut down one of three pines on the Smuggler Street property where she’s lived for more than 40 years.

Kienast said she is familiar with the bugs, from seeing the effects on trees in other parts of the state. She called the city parks department first thing Monday morning.

Mountain pine beetles affect primarily lodgepole pine and can attack ponderosa, Scotch and limber pine, Forman said.

The beetles don’t attack other species such as aspen, Douglas fir or cottonwood, Forman said.

And while a widespread infestation would not affect Aspen’s diverse fauna on the scale of areas such as Grand County, Forman is concerned the beetle is showing up in Aspen.

The beetles are native to the state, but for reasons not yet determined are attacking trees statewide in what Forman called “the worst outbreak we’ve seen.”

This is not the first time the beetles have been found in Aspen ” there have been other occasions when the beetles were imported in firewood from other parts of the state. It is, however, the first time the beetles have shown up on their own accord, Forman said.

“They are definitely out there flying,” Forman said.

The beetles travel in summer months, mostly attacking weaker trees.

After he confirmed that Kienast’s tree was infested, Forman later found another tree near the intersection of Sixth and Hallam streets that was also infested.

A tree infested with mountain pine beetles is easily spotted by the gooey sap secretions on the bark, a natural defense against the intruder as the tree tries to “pitch” the beetles out with flows of sap, Forman said.

The beetles are visible to the naked eye, about one-eighth of an inch long, and they survive on a one-year cycle, boring into the bark of new host trees to form a “gallery” where they lay eggs.

Newly hatched beetles choke off the flow of water and nutrients to the tree and kill the host within one year of their life cycle, Forman said.

“It closes up the system,” Forman said. And once the beetles take hold, there is no saving it. “If we were to leave this tree it would be dead next year,” he said.

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