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Here Come the Bugs!

This four foot diameter Sugar Pine tree was killed by Ips Beetles.
This four foot diameter Sugar Pine tree was killed by Ips Beetles.

This four foot diameter Sugar Pine tree was killed by Ips Beetles.

August 2014, Scott Worden, Soper-Wheeler Company Forester –

The current state of drought has caused a lot of trees to become stressed. Usually, when insects attack, trees produce pitch (sap) to push the invaders out. In times of drought, the trees cannot produce enough pitch to fend off attackers.

This leads to disease centers where bugs kill tree after tree, leaving hundreds of acres of dead forest. Dead forests are not only devastating to the entire ecosystem, they pose a major fire hazard.

Fortunately, our active forest management helps combat excess insect activity, and keeps our forests healthy.

Ips Beetle Invasion

The four-foot diameter Sugar Pine in the photo above was killed by Ips Beetles. Ips Beetles, sometimes known as “engraver beetles,” are bark beetles that develop from egg to adult under the bark, then emerge and attack other trees, damaging and killing pine and spruce. Two factors that contribute to Ips beetle problems  include prolonged drought stress and the creation of freshly cut wood.

Drought stress is not within our control, but creation of freshly cut wood is. Logging slash created from December through April provides large amounts of breeding material. We generally do not produce slash during this period, and as part of best management practices and the forest practice rules, we dispose of slash piles by burning or chipping.

Bobby Waddell felling the Sugar Pine tree.

Mature Ips Beetles emerge in June and July, bore into trees and tunnel, producing a yellowish- or reddish-brown boring dust. The dust accumulates in bark crevices or around the base of the tree, and the affected parts of the tree discolor and die.

Small round holes in the bark of infested trees indicate that beetles have completed development in that part of the tree and have exited. The presence of woodpeckers, a common predator of the Ips beetle, may indicate infestation.

The tree in the photos was found on company land near Shuman Ridge, and was processed by one of our small sides  Bobby Waddell and Jesse McCutcheon.  Watching these two process a tree this big really makes me appreciate what professionals they are.

By salvage logging (selectively falling dead trees and hauling them to sawmills) we remove the tree that would breed more Ips Beetles, in turn killing more trees around it. This reduces the amount of infestation and dead trees in our forests.

If  this tree were left, we would see several more beetle hatches over the next year. Those additional beetles would then go about attacking our Sugar Pine and Ponderosa Pine that had just fended off the last wave of invaders.

An active salvage logging program helps control this chain-reaction of infestations on our lands.

Tussock Moth infestation defoliates these trees on property near LaPorte, CA.

Attack of the Tussock Moth Caterpillars

In the past two years we have seen a significant number of trees injured by Tussock Moths.

Several employees and neighbors reported seeing a large infestation of the Tussock Moth caterpillars at our Bradley property in the LaPorte area. A quick visit confirmed this to be the case.

The caterpillars eat the needles on the trees and can cause  extensive damage. These caterpillars will mature into the Tussock Moth.

Two weeks ago, I took two forest pest scientists, Don Owen from CALFIRE and Danny Cluck from the US Forest Service, out to our Bradley property. They were quite helpful, explaining the life cycle of the pest and how the outbreak will hopefully just run its course.

The two pest scientists felt that if a tree is not over 80% defoliated, then it may live. Our main concern is whether or not the Tussock Moth population will collapse next year, or if the outbreak will continue.  If it continues, we will be facing repeated defoliation and severe mortality in the stand.

Weakened trees are an easy target for other insects. Even if those defoliated trees did survive, there’s a high probability that they would be subject to a secondary attack, leading to mortality.

Based on the current condition of the trees, uncertainty of continued drought, and the possibility of repeated attacks next year, we have opted to start a salvage logging operation in order to remove the weakened trees before they become disease centers which could lead to widespread mortality of our forests.

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