Boulder residents are wondering if something good could come from this bitterly cold weather, namely a decrease in the pine beetles attacking lodgepole and ponderosa pine trees.Unfortunately, the answer is no. Despite highs of 12, 3 and 10 degrees for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, the beetles will return this summer.
“It’s very unlikely that these temperatures will be cold enough to significantly affect the pine beetles,” said Tom Veblen, professor of geography at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Data collected by D.A. Leatherman, I. Aguayo, and T.M. Mehall in their report, “Mountain Pine Beetle,” determined that temperatures of at least 30 degrees below zero (Fahrenheit) must last for five days at the least in order for freezing temperatures to make an impact on the pine beetle population.
Veblen explains that the cold’s duration is necessary because the beetles are in an extreme state of dormancy during the winter, offering them great protection. Also, the recorded temperatures are vastly different from what the beetles experience.
“The temperature at the weather station is likely to be quite a bit colder (than where the beetle is,) beneath the snow and beneath the bark,” he said.
To the dismay of many, the beetles will be back.
For more information about the recent cold spell, see “Temperatures in Boulder climb back towards normal.”
Weird. The Post reports that some clever folks have found yet another use for beetle-kill wood — motor fuel.
Its not exactly turning a sows ear into a silk purse, but Cobalt Technologies Inc. is aiming to transform pine-bark-beetle-killed lodgepole pines into motor fuel.
A Colorado State University lab is preparing to test the brew from the California startup company in a four-stroke, overhead-valve Honda engine.
Plus, if you read the story, you’ll learn a little about the differences between ethanol and butanol.
So here’s a dumb question — what’s the demand for beetle-kill wood looking like? Or what would it look like if a few people started using beetle-kill butanol?
It looks like there might finally be an end to the mountain pine beetle epidemic that has destroyed and noticeably discolored vast areas of Colorado and southern Wyoming forests.
The Denver Post reports that the U.S. Forest Service is anticipating that the worst is over as the pine beetles have already depleted the majority of nutrients from the forests.
For most of the past 15 years, dense-packed lodgepole pine forests gave the rice-size black bugs ideal conditions, “and their populations went up like crazy,” Stephens said.
Now as beetles scramble for fresh wood to chew and sugar to sustain them through cold snaps, “they don’t find the same food quality and quantity. . . . That, ultimately, is going to drive populations back down.”
The beetles’ anticipated demise, however, “is kind of anti-climactic. We’re still left with the aftermath,” Wettstein said. “We’ve got wildfire threats. The most immediate hazard right now is falling trees. We’ll have falling tree hazards for at least 10 years.”
So, now what? Well, it looks like the hungry pine beetles may be headed for Mt. Rushmore, where they may hope to turn forests from CO2 sinks into net greenhouse gas emitters. In the meantime in Colorado, we can expect increased falling tree hazards for at least a decade and continued fights over spraying for pine beetles.
Pine beetles have infested about 2 million acres of Colorado’s lodgepole pine forest, and utility companies are worried that when the dead trees fall, they’ll fall on power lines.
This from the Vail Daily:
A wildfire along one of the West’s key power line corridors could shut down the grid in a worst-case scenario. To avoid disruption, the U.S. Forest Service wants to remove dead and dying trees along power lines crossing national forest system lands in northern Colorado. …
“There is an imminent threat to power lines from an increasing number of hazardous trees falling in the three forests,” said Cal Wettstein, commander of the Forest Service’s Bark Beetle Incident Management Team.
The U.S. Forest Service wants to work with utilities to cut down beetle-killed trees on land it manages in Colorado, including trees in the Roosevelt National Forest, which covers a swath of western Boulder County.
There are around 800 miles of distribution and transmission lines on the three National Forests — White River, Medicine Bow-Routt, and Arapaho and Roosevelt — according to the forest service, and about 400 miles run through lodgepole pine that has been or will likely be killed by the bark beetle.
The pine beetles are still hungry, and nothing is going to stop them from killing the vast majority of Colorado’s mature lodgepole pines in the next several years.
(Last year, the beetles chewed through nearly half a million acres of trees in Colorado, bringing the total bug damage in the state to about 2 million acres.)
But some organizations and homeowners hope that there’s some chance of at least saving a few of the pines — the ones that shade campsites, line ski runs or decorate a back yard — and that hope goes by the name of carbaryl.
The problem is that carbaryl — which to have any hope of fending of the munching beetles would have to be sprayed every year for a decade — is a “likely carcinogen,” according to the EPA, that can also cause a host of other unpleasant neurological problems. And two years ago, it showed up in Boulder’s water for the first time.
This month, a group of residents in Estes Park have begun organizing to fight carbaryl, forming the Mountain Pine Beetle Defense Council, according to the Trail Gazette.
Around Estes, the chemical is sprayed by the city, the forest service and Rocky Mountain National Park. Read more