Local News

Bark Beetles Killing Dry Pine Trees In Forest

Insects eat tree cambium layer, causing groves to die out in forest

SANTA YNEZ VALLEY, Calif. - The drought is causing more problems than just draining water supplies.

The lack of rain is making trees in the Los Padres National Forest susceptible to a certain type of bug.

The insect is called the bark beetle and it's tiny but destructive. It took out a grove of trees at the Los Padres National Forest, including a 70' pine tree.

The beetles are only about an 1/8" long and they tunnel though the tree's bark.

"What these beetles do is eat the cambium layer underneath. There's a live and living layer, and they just work around until they girdle the tree," said Valerie Hubbartt, the resource officer at the forest service.

Healthy trees produce sap that wards off the insects. But because of the lack of rain the sap is drying out, making the trees an easy target for the beetles.

"As a firefighter I see areas of forest that are brown and dead like this, and for me that's more fuel for fire," said Chris Ford, a squad leader for the hotshot crew.

"You can see the tops of these trees have turned red. To me that's an indicator that this tree is not going to come back. It's obviously dead," he said.

The color is one of the beetles' last calling cards. First, holes and dust can be seen on the outside of the trees.

"There are little bore holes that the beetle makes into the bark," said Ford.

To get to the bug inside you'll have to cut through the bark and even then they are difficult to find.

The trees behind the ranger station on Paradise Road were planted in the 1970s but now they are coming out. The hope is that the removal will prevent the insect from spreading.

Once the Forest Service is done taking out the infected trees, they will plant again in hopes of bringing the grove back.

Slideshow: Bark Beetles Killing Dry Pine Trees In Forest

comments powered by Disqus

Top Local Stories