Vail battles the other tree bug |

Vail battles the other tree bug

VAIL, Colorado ” Todd Oppenheimer said the “scale” insects that are plaguing local trees aren’t a big problem, like the mountain pine beetle epidemic.

“It’s maybe a medium problem,” said Oppenheimer, who works for the town of Vail Public Works.

The town sprayed its pine trees to combat the pine needle scale for the third year this summer. The bugs are causing some trees to lose their needles, and they eventually could kill the trees.

About 450 trees have been treated with both pesticides and oil. Infected trees are around the Lionshead parking structure, the Vail Village parking structure, Red Sandstone Park, and other places, Oppenheimer said.

One troubling sign, though, is that scale insects seem to be plaguing Vail aspen trees this year for the first time.

Oppenheimer said the insects are affecting aspen trees in the West Vail roundabout.

The fuzzy-textured scales attach to the bark of aspen trees and dry out the bark, which weakens the tree and could leave it susceptible to other diseases.

The town has also sprayed the affected aspen trees to combat the insects and their possible spread. There is a short window to spray the insects in the late spring and early summer, when they are in their “crawler” phase. That is the time when bugs could spread to nearby trees.

“It takes several applications to really get rid of it,” Oppenheimer said.

It doesn’t seem the scale has spread to trees in the forest lands around Vail, Oppenheimer said.

The city of Aspen has had troubles with scale insects on its aspen trees, too. Willow scale has been infecting aspens and narrowleaf cottonwoods in the city for several years. City officials first noticed the insects about five years ago.

Greg Sundstrom, assistant staff forester for the Colorado State Forest Service, said it’s not uncommon for pine trees to have scales.

“Pine needle scale is never going to become like the mountain pine beetle epidemic,” he said. “It’s not that severe.”

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or

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