Trees face summer of disease, beetles

March 21, 2005
Trees in the Pikes Peak region face another tough summer despite the apparent easing of the drought that has made them susceptible to a host of enemies.
Experts last week said urban and rural trees continue to face the same bad gang of bugs and parasites that have killed thousands of conifers and deciduous trees in the region. They warned homeowners that the region’s trees have been stressed by a five-year drought that will make them vulnerable for years to such threats as bark and ips beetles; the imported fungus Dutch elm disease; and the orange, yarnlike parasitic plant mistletoe. “The drought is definitely not over, that’s one thing we can say for sure,” said Dave Root, the Woodland Park-based assistant district forester for the Colorado State Forest Service. “In fact, in this region lots of watersheds are below normal in snowpack.” Root said he doesn’t expect the assault on area trees to ease until normal moisture returns and the cyclical explosion of bark beetles ends naturally. Tom Flynn, owner of Front Range Arborists, thinks the effects of the prolonged drought are only beginning to hit large trees in the area. He expects them to be vulnerable to disease and pests for five to seven years after the drought breaks. “We’re just starting to see the effects of drought,” he said. “This is the time to be proac- tive on tree care.” The region’s landscape has been battered by the combination of drought and disease: - Thousands of pine trees from Woodland Park to Cascade have been killed or are dying from mountain pine and ips beetles. Root thinks the beetle infestation has yet to reach its peak. - Mistletoe and drought have so weakened trees in the Black Forest that thousands have been infected or have been killed by beetles. - The ips beetle, which normally attacks small, weak trees, is infecting seemingly healthy larger pine trees in Colorado Springs and in forests throughout El Paso, Teller and Park counties. - Arborists are seeing more elm bark beetles, and they say that infestation is expected to get worse. They also are seeing dried roots and massive squirrel damage in elms and a lot of damage to Norway maples. - The city of Colorado Springs has begun cutting down diseased and dead elm and oak trees in city medians in an attempt to halt the spread of Dutch elm disease. - The city’s Forestry Department cut down hundreds of conifer and deciduous trees last year throughout the city — particularly in the southwest — that had been hit by beetles, bores and elm disease. Jim McGannon, Colorado Springs forester, said crews have cut down nearly 100 elm trees in medians in the downtown area and the Near North End and may have to cut down more in the coming months. “I’m afraid we may have lots more to go,” he said. “Some that are still standing we know are dead for sure. We’re going to wait and see what leafs out; spring is going to tell us the bigger story.” There are things homeowners can do, the experts agreed. McGannon and Flynn recommended that property owners consult tree companies licensed by the Colorado Department of Agriculture about spraying valuable pine trees for beetles. That spraying should be done in April and again in midsummer, because ips beetles hatch and take flight several times throughout the summer. Ips beetles, smaller than uncooked grains of rice, bore holes in conifer trees and spread the fatal bluestain fungus. McGannon and Flynn also recommended that homeowners use plenty of mulch around trees to retain moisture in the soil; properly fertilize; and deeply water trees on a regular schedule. Property owners who have dead or dying elm trees on their property are required by city law to remove them. Mc-Gannon said that should be done by May 1 to prevent the spread of the disease. CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0197 or HELP FOR TREES - The Colorado State Forest Service will do on-site inspections of property in El Paso, Teller and Park counties to advise home owners about how to deal with tree pests and disease. The visit costs $50. Call 687-2921 to schedule an appointment. - The City of Colorado Springs Forestry Department maintains a Web site that offers advice on how to care for trees, landscaping hints and how to properly plant trees. Go to, click on Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services, then click on Forestry on that page. - Colorado Springs Utilities maintains a xeriscape garden on Mesa Road. To learn more about the garden, go to
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