OURAY – Learn how to protect your trees from the fir engraver beetle infestation that is killing off white firs in and around Ouray at an upcoming outreach session at the Ouray Community Center.
The exact date of the outreach session has not yet been announced, but it is expected to be sometime in late September, said Ouray resident Barbara Uhles, who is helping to spearhead the event.
Over the past several months, Uhles, Ouray Beautification Committee Chair Gail Jossi and City of Ouray Community Development Coordinator Ann Morganthaler have been researching ways to deal with Ouray’s mounting fir engraver beetle problem.
At the upcoming outreach session, this group will present its findings and share recommendations for bark beetle treatment and mitigation techniques that have proven successful in other communities.
Foresters with the Colorado State Forest Service and U.S. Forest Service are expected to present detailed information about the beetle infestation and about distinguishing between the white fir from the very similar Douglas fir (both of which grow in the area), and how to identify an already-infected tree from one that might be dying of drought-related causes.
Names and contact information of contractors who spray trees to protect them from beetle infestation and cut down beetle-killed trees will be provided.
Timing is critical when treating trees for fir-engraver beetles, with a window occurring during a two to three week period in late June/early July, after the beetles’ eggs hatch inside an already-infested tree and before the insects swarm in search of a new host. Spraying a tree can protect it from infestation but can’t save a tree that is already infested.
Douglas fir trees are also being threatened, and can be protected from beetles by attaching pheromone patches to the perimeter of a property where the trees grow. “You need 20 for a half-acre,” Uhles said.
The patches must be put out in April. Uhles hopes to get the word out to part-time residents to put a plan in place to protect their trees before they leave the area for the winter.
“It’s critical that anyone with firs on their property come to this meeting so they know how to protect them,” Uhles said.
One simple way to protect trees on your property is to keep them as healthy as possible by keeping them well-watered. “Usually beetles infest a tree that is already in distress,” Uhles explained. “The sad news is, once a tree has the beetle in it there is nothing you can do; it’s already dead. There is so much involved in saving the ones that are okay; we need to save those.”
Ouray’s problem with the fir engraver beetle first came to light last spring, when residents were dismayed to discover large numbers of dead and dying fir trees on the steeply forested mountainsides that ring the town.
USFS Forester-Silviculturist Todd Gardiner of the Ouray and Norwood Ranger Districts informed the Ouray City Council in May that the culprit is the fir engraver beetle.
The insects, specific to the species of white fir that grows in this area, and only one-tenth of an inch in size, bore through the bark and feed in the cambium layer of the tree between the bark and the wood. Once established, they create egg galleries that eventually girdle the tree, so that water and nutrients don’t flow to its upper reaches. The affected tree dies from the top down.
Although fir engraver beetles are not as aggressive as the spruce beetle and mountain pine beetle that are attacking huge swaths of densely forested terrain on Wolf Creek Pass and the Front Range, increasingly warmer and dryer climate conditions around Ouray have lately helped the tiny bugs to thrive and multiply, Gardiner said.
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