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Beetles attacking thirsty pines

Blaze Baker can see for miles from the acreage he owns in French Corral.

Recently, Baker – who knows tree diseases because he works as a Tahoe National Forest botanist – counted patches of trees killed by bark beetles.



“I counted 30-odd different kill patches” at the 2,000- to 3,000-foot elevation, he said.




Bark beetles have been busy chewing the life out of western Nevada County pine trees ever since last year’s exceptionally dry weather, said Eric Gunderson of the Nevada County Agricultural Commissioner’s office.

“The lack of rain last year took out a lot of trees that were marginal,” said Gunderson, who’s an entomologist, or bug expert.

Now, the phone’s ringing off the hook in the Agricultural Commissioner’s office with calls from people upset about their dead pines.

But, “the trees that you’re seeing (die) now actually were attacked last summer,” Gunderson explained.

By the fall or winter, beetles had probably “girdled” the trees, or chewed through their life-giving inner bark. Many trees are only starting to turn brown now, Gunderson said.

There’s not much you can do once beetles attack; insecticides aren’t effective, he said. Sometimes it helps to water a pine tree that’s under stress from beetle attack, especially in August and September, Gunderson said.

“Once every two weeks, give it a good soaking,” he said.

Really, Gunderson said, the only thing to do is wait and see if the tree makes it. “It’s possible that a tree can survive,” he said.

But if beetles kill a pine, Gunderson recommends that it be cut down as soon as possible and stripped of bark to help prevent beetle infestation from spreading.


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