Mountain pine beetles infest Pinus trees in western North American forests. While they can reach relatively high altitudes, their preference is for lower altitudes with suitable temperatures. Because instars (stages of larvae) of Dendroctonus ponderosae are susceptible to the cold, the beetles prefer to reside in areas with moderate temperatures. This limits the range of D. ponderosae with respect to both altitude and northern expansion.
With the increase of temperatures due to global warming, mountain pine beetle larvae are now capable of living through winter in areas farther north that were formerly too cold for their survival. In addition, the beetles have moved to higher elevations. The expansion of the mountain pine beetle range due to global warming has resulted in damage to Pinus forests in previously unaffected locations.
Mountain pine beetles preferentially infest trees that are under stresses such as injury or disease, fire damage, old age, and overcrowding. These trees are also the first to die. If the beetle population gets large enough, D. ponderosae will infest healthier Pinus trees in the area. As these trees die as well, entire populations of Pinus trees become kindling for fires that can have drastic effects on the forest ecosystem.
Range elevation: 0 to 3353 m.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest