FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACTS: Amy Gannon, State Entomologist, Montana DNRC (406) 542-4283 Kevin Wanner, Assistant Professor, Entomology Montana State University (406) 994-5663 Ryon Stover, Bozeman City Forester (406) 582-3200 September 16, 2008
Scientists offer advice for combating Bozeman pine beetle outbreak
BOZEMAN, Mont. – A coalition of entomologists and foresters tracking Bozeman’s mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins) outbreak say proactive spraying of trees that haven’t been attacked is the best method for safeguarding native and ornamental pine and spruce trees in the city. “Unfortunately, once a tree has been attacked, it’s going to die,” said Amy Gannon, state entomologist with the Montana Dept. of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC). “Spraying trees that show signs of beetle infestation will not save them.” Gannon visited Bozeman last week to assess the beetle outbreak with Bozeman City Forester Ryon Stover, along with Kevin Wanner, MSU Extension Entomologist, DNRC Service Forester Curt Tesmer, Montana Dept. of Agriculture entomologist Ian Foley, and MSU Extension diagnostician Richard Miller. The agencies and their insect specialists are collaborating on recommendations for Bozeman residents, who for months now have been watching their non-native Scotch pine turn red and die. A number of other species have also been affected – ornamental spruce, limber pine, lodgepole pine – and Gannon said native ponderosa pine and non-native Austrian pine are highly susceptible as well. Fighting the infestation requires doing battle on two fronts, said Stover: Preventing healthy trees from being attacked, and managing dead and dying trees to interrupt the beetles’ life cycle and reduce their numbers.
“Mountain pine beetle larvae will continue to develop in dead standing or downed trees, including small pieces of firewood,” said DNRC’s Tesmer. Larvae become adult beetles in the summer, he said, emerging from their natal tree around midJuly to take flight and locate living trees. The adults bore into a healthy host, lay eggs, and the cycle begins anew. “It can get expensive, but people who have beetle-killed trees need to consider burning, chipping, burying or removing all of the infested wood prior to June 15,” said Gannon. “Placing a tarp over infested wood doesn’t reliably kill mountain pine beetles in our climate.” Stover and Tesmer said they are looking into the possibility of a disposal yard where Bozeman residents can drop off infested logs. Healthy trees can be protected by spraying them next spring with any one of several commercial brands of insecticide, Wanner said. “Just make sure bark beetles are among the listed species on the label. Specialized equipment and precise application are critical, so hiring a certified applicator is a good idea.” Thoroughly covering the tree trunk is a key to success, he said; applications must be made on all sides of the tree from ground level up to a five-inch caliper. Another successful tool for preventing attacks is the chemical Verbenone, which mimics the “no vacancy” message that beetles send out after an infested tree has become too crowded to support any newcomers. The synthetic hormone is sealed in a permeable plastic pouch – the pouch is stapled to the tree. “Verbenone can be fairly effective in low populations,” Gannon said. “In residential areas it’s best to apply 2 – 4 pouches per tree. Be sure to follow all label instructions.” Verbenone can be ordered directly from the two companies that manufacture the stuff: Pherotech (604-940-9944) and Synergy (604-454-1121). Gannon said both companies have excellent Web sites with detailed information. Identifying trees under attack by mountain pine beetles isn’t difficult. As they bore into the trunk, the tree produces popcorn-shaped nodules of sap, called “pitch tubes,” in an effort to repel the insects. Small piles of wood dust collect near the base of the tree. “Infested trees may remain green during the fall and have green crowns, but if you see pitch tubes and wood dust, that tree is done for,” said Stover, “no treatment is going to save it.” The feeding activity of the larvae will disrupt the tree’s circulatory system, he said. Beetles also carry a blue-stain fungus which has a detrimental effect on the host tree. In Bozeman, mountain pine beetles thus far have gone after ornamental Scotch pine and some spruce, said Stover, though all species of pine – ponderosa, lodgepole, limber, Austrian, mugo and whitebark – are susceptible to attack. Beetles target trees greater than five inches in diameter.