Drought could give bark beetles second wind

by Dalton Carver

Over the past several years, Colorado has been held hostage by a force of nature that seems insatiable. It numbers in the hundreds of thousands, flies and has an unquenchable taste for some of Colorado’s most beautiful residents – trees. Conditions feeding the flying fiends in local areas may have been on the decline, but recent drought conditions could douse those hopes.
An image of a woodland vampire may come to mind, but these creatures are much smaller, come in many varieties and aren’t created by mythical means. Colorado has been struck by several species of bark beetle, leaving forested areas vulnerable. Due to the climate bouncing back and forth from average precipitation to drought over the last 10 years, beetle populations have expanded to epidemic levels.
Locally, fir engraver beetles seized the white fir tree stands just above the City of Ouray but were on the decline prior to last summer’s drought. With that event being one of the worst of its kind in Southwest Colorado history, experts are unsure if fir engravers will find reinvigoration.
The biggest beetle in the current statewide epidemic, however, has been the spruce beetle. Over the last 20 years, spruce beetles have impacted 1.8 million acres of forest across Colorado. Overall, mountain pine beetle has affected the largest amount of acreage throughout state over two decades with 3.375 million acres.  
This massive tree mortality can result in...

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