What’s New – Spring 2022 ~ Beetle Issues Continue in Colorado

Unfortunately, we don’t have much good news to report regarding the state of Colorado’s forests. The Colorado State Forest Service’s annual Aerial Detection Survey found widespread tree mortality caused by various beetle species. Years of drought and warmer temperatures are the primary driving forces behind this beetle outbreak.

Locally, spruce beetle, Douglas fir beetle, western balsam bark beetle and Ips beetle are all present and represent varying degrees of threat to our forests and landscaped trees. Pinyon Ips beetle, in particular, is killing large pockets of trees in our native pinyon/juniper forest. According to the Colorado State Forest Service, “The Roaring Fork Valley has had substantial overstory mortality of mature pinyon pines for the last five years. As these mature pines are depleted, and drought conditions persist, younger trees are suffering and become increasingly susceptible.”

There are several treatment options for these beetles, including traditional sprays, systemic applications and pheromones. If feasible, providing supplemental water to trees during dry months is also a critical measure to prevent beetle attack. This winter’s snowpack is significantly better than the last few years, but one good winter won’t break this cycle. We need to return to colder temperatures and normal precipitation levels in order to see a natural decline in beetle populations.

Monitoring Soil Moisture

While the drought in western Colorado continues, it is less severe compared to the last couple of years. Our snowpack is in pretty good shape (105% of average at Snowmass & 90% of average at Vail), and we continue to add to it, which has created some great late season powder days. That being said, Colorado weather can change rapidly and soil moisture levels can quickly become depleted. If our weather pattern does change and things dry out before irrigation systems are activated, it’s essential to hand water your trees and shrubs until your irrigation system is turned on. As a general rule, apply 10 gallons of water for each diameter inch of trunk. For example, a 5 inch diameter tree needs 50 gallons per watering. Water only when temperatures are above 40 degrees and when there is no snow cover.