Overview

Comprehensive Description

General Description

There is no frontal groove on the frons. The pronotum has coarse, closely spaced punctures that may have granules. The elytral declivity is dull and may have small granules. It may look similar to D. jeffreyi Hopkins, but pronotal features and smaller size distinguish it. It may also look similar to D. adjunctus Blandford.
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Distribution

This beetle is found in conifer forests throughout its range. In Canada it is found in British Columbia and Alberta. In the USA it is found in all US states west of South Dakota. It is also found along the Pacific coast as far south as Baja California, Mexico.
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Geographic Range

Dentroctonus ponderosae (the mountain pine beetle) inhabits a large portion of western North America. This species ranges from British Columbia in the north to northern Mexico in the south, as well as from North Dakota west to the Pacific coast. Since D. ponderosae infests Pinus ponderosa, as well as other trees in the genus Pinus, the range of the mountain pine beetle is mostly coincident with that of forests containing these trees.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

  • Mock, K., E. O'Neill, J. Chong, J. Orwin, M. Pfrender. 2007. Landscape-scale genetic variation in a forest outbreak species, the mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae). Molecular Ecology, 16/3: 553-568.
  • Safranyik, L. 2001. Seasonality in the mountain pine beetle: causes and effects on abundance. Boreal Odyssey, NOR-X-381: 150-151.
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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Dendroctonus ponderosae is black and cylindrical and, on average, 5 mm long. The gradual curve of the hind wing of the adult D. ponderosae distinguishes it from other bark beetles that normally have sharp spines along the hind wing.

Mountain pine beetle eggs are normally white, while the larvae typically have white bodies and brown heads. The larvae are also legless, as they remain under the bark of the Pinus trees for the duration of their development and have no need for legs.

Range length: 5 to 7.5 mm.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

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Type Information

Type for Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins, 1902
Catalog Number: USNM
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Entomology
Sex/Stage: Female; Adult
Preparation: Pinned
Collector(s): D. Hopkins
Year Collected: 1900
Locality: Spearfish; S.D, South Dakota, United States
  • Type: Hopkins. 1902. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Division of Entomology, new series, Bulletin. 32: 10.
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Ecology

Habitat

Windfall and weak or overmature trees with a DBH of more than 15 cm.
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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

  • Leatherman, D., T. Mehall, I. Aguayo. 2007. "Mountain Pine Beetle" (On-line). Colorado State University - Extension. Accessed July 03, 2011 at http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/insect/05528.html.
  • Logan, J., J. Powell. 2001. Ghost forests, global warming, and the mountain pine beetle (Coleoptera: Scolytidae). American Entomologist, 47:3: 160-172.
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Trophic Strategy

In Alberta, this species feeds on Pinus albicaulis (White-bark Pine), P. contorta (lodgepole pine), P. flexilis (limber pine) and P. monticola (western white pine). It feeds on many other Pinus species in the rest of its range.
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Food Habits

Dendroctonus ponderosae larvae survive mainly on the phloem of the tree which they inhabit. They feed in lines perpendicular to the egg galleries in which they were hatched. Directly after pupation within the oval cells, adults feed on fungal spores that other beetles have introduced into the tree, as well as additional tree tissues. Adults later feed on the bark of the tree as they make their way from the oval cells out into the open.

Plant Foods: wood, bark, or stems; sap or other plant fluids

Other Foods: fungus

Primary Diet: herbivore (Lignivore, Eats sap or other plant foods); mycophage

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Dendroctonus ponderosae, although considered a parasite and nuisance now, has actually co-evolved with Pinus trees for many years. The forest ecosystem actually began to rely on periodic infestations of mountain pine beetles, and the subsequent clearing due to forest fires. Now, however, predators of mountain pine beetles cannot control their populations. The destruction of Pinus trees affects more than just the trees themselves; animals in the forest ecosystem that rely on the trees for protection and shelter, such as deer and elk, are also affected by tree destruction.

Infestations of Dendroctonus ponderosae occur wherever Pinus trees are, whether they are in forests, on mountains, or isolated in yards. Due to the transportation of firewood, isolated stands of Pinus can become infected. After one tree is infected with mountain pine beetles, nearby trees usually succumb to the infestation as well. Trees inevitably die after infestation with the beetles, due to the catastrophic damage caused by the tissue ingestion of mountain pine beetle larvae as well as the introduction of the blue stain fungus by adult beetles. Blue stain fungus invades the phloem and eventually cuts off nutrient supply in the tree, resulting in tree death. Blue stain fungus, which is distributed by mountain pine beetles alone, stops the tree from using resin to remove the beetles from its phloem. In this way, blue stain fungus and mountain pine beetles are mutualists.

Signs of mountain pine beetle infestation include the presence of pitch tubes on the surface of trees in which the beetles have begun to dig egg galleries. Color of pitch tubes ranges from brown to pink or white. An increased presence of woodpeckers could also indicate Dendroctonus ponderosae infestation, as beetles serve as a valuable food source to the woodpeckers. Sapwood - the younger, outer portion of the tree - could also have blue stains, indicating that beetle infestation has occurred, and that the adult beetles introduced the blue stain fungus. The final sign of mountain pine beetle infestation is the transformation in color of the crown of infested Pinus trees to red or yellow. This is the last visible sign of infestation, as it does not occur until eight to ten months after the initial infestation.

There are some ecologists and landowners that do not necessarily see the damage by mountain pine beetles as totally negative. Ecologists point out that as a result of destruction of portions of Pinus forests, canopy overgrowth decreases, allowing understory vegetation to blossom and expand. This increases the plant diversity, which is beneficial for the forest ecosystem. Some landowners, meanwhile, prefer the growth of plants that normally cannot thrive under a dense canopy of Pinus trees.

Ecosystem Impact: parasite

Species Used as Host:

  • Ponderosa and lodgepole pines, Pinus trees

Mutualist Species:

Commensal/Parasitic Species:

  • U.S. Department of Agriculture: Forest Service. Mountain pine beetle dynamics in lodgepole pine forests - Part I: Course of an infestation. INT-89. Ogden, Utah: US Government Printing Office. 1980. Accessed July 03, 2011 at http://www.usu.edu/beetle/documents/48-Cole-Amman1980.pdf.
  • Stone, W., M. Wolfe. 1996. Response of understory vegetation to variable tree mortality following a mountain pine beetle epidemic in lodgepole pine stands in northern Utah. Vegetatio, 122: 1-12.
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Predation

Woodpeckers (Picidae) are a natural predators of mountain pine beetles, as they penetrate the bark of Pinus trees to feed on adults and larvae. Several other beetles, including two species of checkered beetles (Cleridae) also feed on the adults and larvae beneath the bark. Dolichopodid flies also feed on Dendroctonus ponderosae.

Other predators, however, target Dendroctonus ponderosae as the adults fly from their tree of origin to a new host. These predators include nuthatches (Sitta) and other birds.

Known Predators:

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Once a female adult beetle exits the tree from in which it hatched, it will attack a new tree, meanwhile releasing a pheromone that attracts other beetles to the site. These other beetles are then able to attack the target tree, as well as adjacent trees. Males that have been attracted to these trees then attack and release their own pheromones, thereby attracting more females to the site. Once a critical density of beetles per tree has been reached, males and females then release more pheromones, signaling to others to attack adjacent trees instead.

One of the pheromones produced by female D. ponderosae at critical density is called verbenone. Because verbenone at one site signals to D. ponderosae to avoid that site and seek out another, verbenone has been considered as a repellent the mountain pine beetle.

Communication Channels: acoustic ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: pheromones

Perception Channels: acoustic ; chemical

  • Pureswaran, D., R. Gries, J. Borden, H. Pierce, Jr.. 2000. Dynamics of pheromone production and communication in the mountain pine beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins, and the pine engraver, Ips pini (Say) (Coleoptera: Scolytidae). Chemoecology, 10/4: 153-168.
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Cyclicity

Flight period begins in mid July and lasts until late August. This may vary with local climates.
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Life Cycle

Beetles and larvae will become active in the spring as the weather begins to warm. Mature females will extend galleries and may or may not continue to oviposit. Some females will reemerge. Females that emerge will find bark crevices and excavate to the cambium. Egg galleries are vertical and straight and found within the phloem region, which may score or stain the cambium. The male will then join the female and mate, after mating the male may leave the gallery. Eggs are laid in egg niches, two eggs may be laid in one niche. There is a 7 to 10 day period before hatching followed by approximately a 300 day larval period. By June of the year after the eggs were laid most larvae have pupated, and most are mature by mid July. After the one month maturation period the newly mature adults will emerge weather conditions are appropriate. During outbreaks it will attack any acceptable hosts of any conifer species.
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Development

An adult female mountain pine beetle deposits her eggs in egg galleries within the phloem of a Pinus tree, and the eggs lay dormant for 10-14 days before hatching. Larvae then hatch from the eggs, appearing white with brown heads and no legs. These larvae develop through their instars for approximately ten months. Development time varies, depending on the temperature of the phloem in which the larvae are found; colder phloem results in prolonged development, while warmer phloem can shorten the duration of development. By the time winter arrives, the larvae have reached their third or fourth instar, which are much more durable in cold weather. The instars metabolize glycerol during this time, which prevents them from freezing. At the end of their development, around June of the following year, Dendroctonus ponderosae larvae build oval cells stemming out from their egg gallery. Within the oval cell each individual larva develops into a pupa. This stage is normally complete by the end of June or July. After a month or so this pupa develops into an adult. The adults can feed on bark within reach of their oval cells until they break into other oval cells or penetrate the bark to emerge from the tree. For the beetles infesting Pinus trees, this normally takes place in mid-August. At that point the adult females fly to new Pinus trees, secrete pheromones to attract males, and begin penetrating the tree bark to form new egg galleries. When males arrive, they also secrete pheromones to attract more beetles to the location, then fertilize the females beneath the bark of the Pinus tree. From here, the cycle starts again.

Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

The life cycle of Dendroctonus ponderosae lasts approximately one year, but it is highly climate dependent. At higher latitudes or elevations, the colder temperatures lengthen the larval development stages to about two years. Normally the adult stage last only a few days, and consists of leaving the tree in which they developed, flying to a new tree, and reproducing under the bark there.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
1 to 2 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
1 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
1 years.

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Reproduction

Upon emerging from the oval cell in which they completed development, adult female Dendroctonus ponderosae fly to a Pinus tree that is suitable for breeding and maintaining progeny. Here they build an egg gallery by burrowing straight through the bark of the tree and into its phloem. These females then secrete pheromones in order to attract male D. ponderosae to the site. The males, upon arrival to the site, secrete their own pheromones to attract both male and female beetles to the location, initiating a local infestation.

At this point, the males proceed to exhibit mate selection by preferentially choosing females whose egg galleries are of larger size but within smaller trees. Smaller males are more likely to enter galleries than larger males, most likely because of some kind of size-dependent sexual selection dependent on the females. Large females in turn show sexual selection by allowing larger males to enter their galleries much more quickly than smaller males. To enter the galleries, males must first stridulate (rub their legs together in order to produce a certain sound). Once a female grants access to the male, the male enters the gallery and fertilization occurs. The female will then lay approximately 75 eggs. Males will remain with the females anywhere from a few days to three weeks after fertilization occurs.

Mating System: monogamous

Adult mountain pine beetles leave the trees in which they developed during summertime; this is usually sometime during July or August, but could potentially be anytime from mid-June until the beginning of September. At this time, they seek out new trees in which to reproduce. Males fertilize females within these new trees, then females lay about 75 eggs. The eggs hatch into larvae within about 10 to 14 days. Although the parents might remain within the tree for a few days afterward, there has been no parental involvement observed in Dendroctonus ponderosae. Around June or July of the following year, after having developed within the egg gallery throughout winter, the eggs develop into pupae. The pupae then become sexually mature adults sometime around mid-August, and can then leave the Pinus tree to find a mate.

Breeding interval: Mountain pine beetles breed once yearly, or potentially every two years if temperatures are cooler.

Breeding season: Breeding season for mountain pine beetles is in July or August.

Average eggs per season: 75.

Range gestation period: 10 to 14 days.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 to 2 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 to 2 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 years.

Key Reproductive Features: semelparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); oviparous

No parental involvement has been observed in Dendroctonus ponderosae.

Parental Investment: pre-fertilization (Protecting: Female)

  • U.S. Department of Agriculture: Forest Service. Mountain pine beetle. Forest Insect & Disease Leaflet 2. Portland, Oregon: USDA Forest Service. 2009. Accessed July 03, 2011 at http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/nr/fid/fidls/fidl-2.pdf.
  • Leatherman, D., T. Mehall, I. Aguayo. 2007. "Mountain Pine Beetle" (On-line). Colorado State University - Extension. Accessed July 03, 2011 at http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/insect/05528.html.
  • Reid, M., O. Baruch. 2010. Mutual mate choice by mountain pine beetles: size-dependence but not size-assortative mating. Ecological Entomology, 35:1: 69-76.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Dendroctonus ponderosae

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 46 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.  Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.  See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

TTAAATAATATAAGATTCTGATTATTACCCCCTTCATTAACATTTTTGCTTCTTAGAAGAATTATTGATAAAGGGGCAGGAACTGGATGAACAGTATATCCTCCTTTAGCTTCTAATATTTCCCATGAAGGATCCTCAGTTGAC---TGTGCTATTTTCAGGCTTCATATAGCAGGAGTATCTTCTATCCTTGGAGCTATCAATTTTATTTCTACAATTATAAATATAGCCCCTTCAGGAATAAAATTAGATCGTTTAACGTTATTTACATGAGCAGTAAAAATTACAGCTATCTTGTTATTGTTATCATTACCAGTATTAGCTGGA---GCCATCACTATACTTTTAACAGACCGAAATATCAATACTACTTTTTTTGATCCCTCCGGTGGAGGAGATCCTATTCTCTATCAACACTTATTTTGATTTTTTGGACACCCCGAAGTTTACATTTTAATTCTACCAGGGTTTGGTATAATTTCTCATATTATTAGACAAGAGAGAGGAAAAAAG---GAAGCTTTTGGATTATTAGGAATAATCTATGCTATAATAGCAATTGGATTATTAGGTTTTGTAGTATGAGCTCACCATATATTTACAGTAGGAATAGATGTAGATACTCGAGCCTATTTTACATCTGCTACAATAATTATCGCAGTTCCAACCGGAATTAAAATTTTTAGATGATTA---GCTACATATCATGGATCT---CAAATTACATTAACTCCCTCCTCCCTTTGAGCTATTGGATTTATTTTTCTTTTTACTTTAGGAGGATTAACAGGTGTAATTTTAGCCAATTCTTCTATTGATATTATCCTCCATGATACTTATTATGTAGTAGCCCATTTTCATTATGTA---TTATCTATAGGAGCAGTATTTGCTATTTTAGCAGGAGTAGTTCAATGATTTCCCCTTTTTACAGGTTTAACATTAAATAATAAATATTTAAAAACCCAATTTTTTTCTATATTTGTAGGAGTTAATCTAACTTTTTTCCCTCAACATTTTCTAGGACTAAGAGGTATACCTCGT---CGTTATTCAGATTATCCAGATGCTTATTAC---TTATGAAATATAATTTCTTCAATTGGAAGAATAATTTCTATAATTAGAATTATTTATTTTGTTTATATTATTTGAGAAGCTTTTACCTCTAAACGATTAAAT---TTATCTTCTCTTAATACTCCTACATCT
-- end --

Download FASTA File
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Dendroctonus ponderosae

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 107
Specimens with Barcodes: 109
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

This species is a major forest pest throughout its range.
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National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: GNR - Not Yet Ranked

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Dendroctonus ponderosae is not an endangered species, nor does there seem to be any concern about conserving the species as a whole. In fact, due to the nature of D. ponderosae, the focus is shifted more to eradicating the pest and restoring forest ecosystems rather than maintaining the species.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Mountain pine beetle infestations cause the destruction of huge numbers of trees. To curb the massive losses due to these infestations, governments in the United States and Canada have supplied large amounts of money toward eradication efforts. Without these efforts or any future change, the death of Pinus trees leads to increased carbon emissions. In addition, the destruction of Pinus forests leads to an increase in wildfire fuel, which could be potentially harmful to humans. Especially significant are the forest fires which occurred in Yellowstone National Park in 1988 and were the result of mountain pine beetle damage to Pinus trees. Deforestation due to mountain pine beetles can also negatively affect local timber industry.

  • Kurz, W., C. Dymond, G. Stinson, G. Rampley, E. Neilson, A. Carroll, T. Ebata, L. Safranyik. 2008. Mountain pine beetle and forest carbon feedback to climate change. Nature, 452: 987-990.
  • Lynch, H., R. Renkin, R. Crabtree, P. Moorcroft. 2006. The influence of previous mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) activity on the 1988 Yellowstone fires. Ecosystems, 9/8: 1318-1327.
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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Mountain pine beetles are not known to provide any benefits for humans.

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Wikipedia

Mountain pine beetle

The mountain pine beetle (MPB) Dendroctonus ponderosae, is a species of bark beetle native to the forests of western North America from Mexico to central British Columbia. It has a hard black exoskeleton, and measures approximately 5 mm, about the size of a grain of rice.

In western North America, the current outbreak of the mountain pine beetle and its microbial associates has destroyed wide areas of lodgepole pine forest, including more than 16 million hectares in British Columbia. The current outbreak in the Rocky Mountain National Park began in 1996 and has caused the destruction of millions of acres of ponderosa and lodgepole pine trees. According to an annual assessment by the state's forest service, 264,000 acres of trees in Colorado were infested by the mountain pine beetle at the beginning of 2013. This was much smaller than the 1.15 million acres that were affected in 2008 because the beetle has already killed off most of the vulnerable trees (Ward).[1]

Mountain pine beetles inhabit ponderosa, whitebark, lodgepole, Scotch, Jack Pine,[2] and limber pine trees. Normally, these insects play an important role in the life of a forest, attacking old or weakened trees, and speeding development of a younger forest. However, unusual hot, dry summers and mild winters throughout the region during the last few years, along with forests filled with mature lodgepole pine, have led to an unprecedented epidemic.[3]

It may be the largest forest insect blight ever seen in North America.[4] Climate change has contributed to the size and severity of the outbreak, and the outbreak itself may, with similar infestations, have significant effects on the capability of northern forests to remove greenhouse gas (CO2) from the atmosphere.[5]

Because of its impact on forestry, the transcriptome[6] and the genome[7] have been sequenced. This is only the second beetle genome to be sequenced to date.

Tree infestations[edit]

Mountain pine beetles can damage whole regions of forest.

Mountain pine beetles affect pine trees by laying eggs under the bark. The beetles introduce blue stain fungus into the sapwood that prevents the tree from repelling and killing the attacking beetles with tree pitch flow. The fungus also blocks water and nutrient transport within the tree. On the tree exterior, this results in popcorn-shaped masses of resin, called "pitch tubes", where the beetles have entered.[8] The joint action of larval feeding and fungal colonization kills the host tree within a few weeks of successful attack (the fungus and feeding by the larvae girdles the tree, cutting off the flow of water and nutrients). When the tree is first attacked, it remains green. Usually within a year of attack, the needles will have turned red. This means the tree is dying or dead, and the beetles have moved to another tree. In three to four years after the attack, very little foliage is left, so the trees appear grey.[3]

As beetle populations increase or more trees become stressed because of drought or other causes, the population may quickly increase and spread. Healthy trees are then attacked, and huge areas of mature pine stands may be threatened or killed. Warm summers and mild winters play a role in both insect survival and the continuation and intensification of an outbreak. Adverse weather conditions (such as winter lows of -40°) can reduce the beetle populations and slow the spread, but the insects can recover quickly and resume their attack on otherwise healthy forests.

Life cycle[edit]

Beetles develop through four stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult. Except for a few days during the summer when adults emerge from brood trees and fly to attack new host trees, all life stages are spent beneath the bark.[9]

In low elevation stands and in warm years, mountain pine beetles require one year to complete a generation. At high elevations, where summers are typically cooler, life cycles may vary from one to two years.

Female beetles initiate attacks. As they chew into the inner bark and phloem, pheromones are released, attracting male and female beetles to the same tree. The attacking beetles produce more pheromones, resulting in a mass attack that overcomes the tree’s defenses, and results in attacks on adjacent trees.

Natural predators of the mountain pine beetle include certain birds, particularly woodpeckers, and various insects.

Management techniques[edit]

Management techniques include harvesting at the leading edges of what is known as “green attack”, as well as other techniques that can be used to manage infestations on a smaller scale, including:[10]

  • Pheromone baiting - is luring beetles into trees ‘baited’ with a synthetic hormone that mimics the scent of a female beetle. Beetles can then be contained in a single area, where they can more easily be destroyed.
  • Sanitation harvesting - is removing single infested trees to control the spread of beetle populations to other areas.
  • Snip and skid - is removing groups of infested trees scattered over a large area.
  • Controlled, or mosaic, burning - is burning an area where infested trees are concentrated, to reduce high beetle infestations in the area or to help reduce the fire hazard in an area.
  • Fall and burn - is cutting (felling) and burning beetle-infested trees to prevent the spread of beetle populations to other areas. This is usually done in winter, to reduce the risk of starting forest fires.
  • Pesticides - Biopesticides such as chitosan have been tested for protection against the mountain pine beetle, and pesticides such as Carbaryl, permethrin, and bifenthrin are used for smaller area applications.

The concept of natural plant defense holds hope for eliminating pine beetle infestation. Beneficial microbial solutions are being researched and developed that work with the plant to activate and enhance its resistance mechanisms against insects and disease.

The US Forest Service tested chitosan,[11][12] a biopesticide, to pre-arm pine trees to defend themselves against MPB. The US Forest Service results show AgriHouse's EPA-registered ODC Collodial Chitosan elicited a 40% increase in pine resin (P<0.05) in southern pine trees. One milliliter ODC chitosan per 10 gallons water was applied to the ground area within the drip ring of loblolly pine trees. The application was repeated three times from May through September in 2008. The ODC chitosan was responsible for eliciting natural defense responses of increased resin pitch-outs, with the ability to destroy 37% of the pine beetle eggs.[13] Dr. Jim Linden, Microbiologist, Colorado State University, stated the chitosan increased resin pitch-outs to push the mountain pine beetle out of the tree, preventing the MPB from entering the pine tree and spreading blue stain mold.[14]

Aggressively searching out, removing, and destroying the brood in infested trees is the best way to slow the spread of mountain pine beetles; however, it may not protect specific trees. Spraying trees to prevent attack is the most effective way to protect a small number of high-value trees from mountain pine beetles. Carbaryl (Sevin SL and XLR, and others), permethrin (Astro, Dragnet, and others), and bifenthrin (Onyx) are registered in the United States for use in the prevention of pine beetle infestations. Carbaryl is considered by the EPA to likely be carcinogenic to humans. It is moderately toxic to wild birds and partially to highly toxic to aquatic organisms. Permethrin is easily metabolized in mammalian livers, so is less dangerous to humans. Birds are also practically not affected by permethrin. Negative effects can be seen in aquatic ecosystems, as well as it being very toxic to beneficial insects. Bifenthrin is moderately dangerous to mammals, including humans; it is slightly more toxic to birds and aquatic ecosystems than permethrin, as well as extremely toxic to beneficial insects.[15]

Spraying can be an effective option for large scale application and treatment for pines, so long as products used are natural and safe. In August 2011, 350 acres of pine forest in the Black Hills of South Dakota were sprayed aerially with Soil Pro, a solution of beneficial microbes and structured water. A follow up evaluation in spring of 2012 revealed a complete eradication of the pine beetle in the area sprayed with one application of a product developed by ABC Organics and Greenfield Naturals. Costs per acre averaged $22.00 which included product, air drop services and yearly evaluation surveys. Further information on the Black Hills Pine Beetle Eradication project can be obtained from Greenfield Naturals and ABC Organics.

Verbenone is the main compound for the antiaggregate pheromone for the mountain pine beetle, a compound has traditionally formulated as pouches. Verbenone is a behavior-modifying pheromone that tricks the pine beetle into believing the tree is no longer useful to more beetles, so they will leave the tree alone. It is useful in campsites and places close to creeks and rivers where spraying cannot be used. Verbenone does not kill the insects; it simply pushes them away to another tree or area. Traditional verbenone pouch formulations have been achieved moderate tree protection in areas with low beetle populations, but have not been very successful in areas with higher beetle populations. So far the use of the traditional verbenone pouch formulations has proven useful only in small-scale operations.[16] But these trends are being changed with the high levels of success that a new SPLAT[17] semiochemical formulation has been having in halting mountain pine beetle attacks.

As new player in this market, ISCA Technologies www.iscatech.com has developed and tested, and registered with EPA, a new flowable verbenone formulation called SPLATverb Repel. Field work in Wyoming the past three years indicate that SPLATverb Repel has promise in protecting individual pine trees even in areas under very high mountain pine beetle density. In these field trials 93% (2011), 92% (2012) and 93% (2013) of the untreated trees (control) were mass-attacked by the mountain pine beetle and killed whereas 0% (2011, 2012, 2013), i.e., none, of the SPLATverb Repel-treated trees suffered mountain pine beetle mass attacks: all SPLATverb Repe treated trees survived. In addition to protecting single trees, SPLATverb Repel also has shown a potential to protect pine trees in areawide programs. In a replicated areawide field work, SPLATverb Repel-treated plots experienced an 84% suppression of mountain pine beetle mass attacks when compared to untreated plots.[18] SPLATverb Repel's suppression performance has shown to be 20% better than that observed in plots treated with the traditional verbenone 'pouch' formulation.[18]

Initial trials with ponderosa pine suggest that SPLATverb also protects these trees from mountain pine beetle attack and western pine beetle. North American scientists are testing SPLATverb Repel to determine if it can be used to protect other pine trees, like the endangered high elevation white bark pine Pinus albicaulis, against the attack of mountain pine beetle and other species of bark beetles that respond to verbenone.

Colorado’s forests are much densely wooded, making them much more susceptible to bark beetle attack. Current legislation is in place to help with the growing beetle problem. Colorado Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet announced that Colorado will receive $30 million of the $40 million being diverted by the U.S. Forest Service to fight the millions of acres of damage caused by the mountain pine beetle in the Rocky Mountain region. It is important for the success of these new mountain beetle suppression programs that they embrace the novel, more effective, SPLAT verb formulation [18]

Commercial use of affected trees[edit]

Timber quality[edit]

Wood from beetle-affected trees retains its commercial value for 8 to 12 years after the tree has died, but the level of value drops rapidly, for within several months, as the moisture retained in the tree seeks to escape, it blows large checks and cracks from the outer diameter deep into the heart of the tree. The balance of the moisture escapes more slowly, but in doing so, small cracks occur throughout the timber. In short, this causes difficulties for modern high-output automated sawmill operations and greatly increases the lumber losses and the labor to produce high quality wood products. This so-called ‘shelf life’ is dependent on a number of factors, including economic and stand site conditions. The trees remain commercially viable longer under drier conditions. In areas where it is wetter, the trees tend to rot at the base and fall faster, especially if they are larger.[19] The blue staining of the wood that occurs in the outer diameter of the tree, the sapwood, as a result of the fungus that is carried by the beetles and results in the trees death has no effect on the wood’s strength properties, nor are there any harmful health effects. Blue stain is considered to be a defect in the lumber grading standards and thus is considered a 'down-grade' that results in a lower commodity market price. This fact, combined with the increased cost of lumber production in processing dead, dry, cracked timber, results in very low, if any, profitability, and has thus resulted in a very limited desire to produce blue stain wood products when there is an obvious and very great need to better utilize these resources.

Timber Uses[edit]

The timber can be used for any wood product from standard framing lumber to engineered wood products, such as glue-laminated products and cross-laminated panels. The epidemic in British Columbia is also creating opportunities for the emerging bio-energy industry. Though there are many small wood working and craft shops that are making furniture and crafts out of this beautiful and exotic appearing blue-stained wood, and despite the massive supply and the increasingly apparent need to utilize this dead timber, there are very few companies that have aggressively gone after the need to use this otherwise wasted and hazardous natural resource by creating product lines that require large volumes of these dead trees. This is of course largely due to the significant difficulties and increased expense inherent to processing dead timber, and the correspondingly lowered profitability.

Biofuel/alternative energy production from beetle-killed trees[edit]

There has been concern that the huge number of beetle-killed trees may pose a risk of devastating forest fires. Forest thinning to mitigate fire danger is expensive and resource-intensive.[20] Attention is turning to ways to turn this liability into a source of cellulosic ethanol.

Leaders in western U.S. states and Canadian provinces have promoted legislation to provide incentives for companies using beetle-killed trees for biofuel or biopower applications. Sellable commodities resulting from MPB damage can help subsidize the cost of forest thinning projects and support new job markets. Colorado's Department of Energy recently provided $30 million toward construction of the state's first cellulosic ethanol plant, to convert beetle kill into ethanol. Lignin, a byproduct of the process, can be sold for applications in lubricants and other goods.[21]

Fire hazards[edit]

The long-held belief that beetle infestations and resulting deadkill lead to more devastating forest fires is currently being challenged. Although some disagree[citation needed], ongoing NASA studies have shown beetle kill may actually reduce available small fuels and consequently limit the effect and reach of fires.[22]

Current outbreak[edit]

The current outbreak of mountain pine beetles is ten times larger than previous outbreaks.[23] Huge swaths of central British Columbia (BC) and parts of Alberta have been hit badly, with over 40 million acres (160,000 km2) of BC's forests affected.[24] Under the presumption that the large areas of dead pine stands represent a potential fire hazard, the BC government is directing fuel management activities in beetle areas as recommended in the 2003 Firestorm Provincial Review.[25] Harvesting affected stands aids fire management by removing the presumed hazard and breaking the continuity of the fuels. These fuel management treatments are specifically designed to reduce interface fire threats to communities and First Nations located in the infestation zone. The interface is the area where urban development and wilderness meet.

As of May 2013, the Pine Beetle is aggressively devastating forests in all 19 Western States and Canada, effectively decimating approximately 88 million acres of timber at a 70-90% kill rate. Over 13,000 miles of power lines are being endangered with falling trees that increasingly raise the risk of fires that could cause widespread problems for millions of customers. The mountain pine beetle has affected more than 900 miles (1,400 km) of trail, 3,200 miles (5,100 km) of road and 21,000 acres (85 km2) of developed recreation sites over 4,500,000 acres (18,000 km2) in Colorado and southeastern Wyoming; other outbreaks encompass the Black Hills of South Dakota and extend as far south as Arizona, and as far north as Montana and Idaho. The US Forest Service is working on a hazard tree removal strategy, prioritizing high-use recreation areas, such as campgrounds, roads and National Forest Service lands adjacent to vulnerable public infrastructure such as power lines and near communities.[26]

The outbreaks are almost certainly a consequence of global warming. Previously, cold spells had killed off bark beetles which are now attacking the forests.[27][28] The longer breeding season is another factor encouraging beetle proliferation. The combination of warmer weather, attack by beetles, and mismanagement during past years has led to a substantial increase in the severity of forest fires in Montana.[28][29] According to a study done for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Science, portions of Montana will experience a 200% increase in area burned by wildland fires, and an 80% increase in air pollution from those fires.[30][31]

Effect on the carbon cycle[edit]

Researchers from the Canadian Forest Service have studied the relationship between the carbon cycle and forest fires, logging and tree deaths. They concluded by 2020, the pine beetle outbreak will have released 270 megatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from Canadian forests. There is yet to be an accepted study of the carbon cycle effect over a future period of time for North American forests, but many scientist believe we are at a 'tipping point' of our Western Forests becoming a source of carbon off-put that is greater than that of a 'carbon sink'.[23]

Effect on water resources[edit]

Hydrologists from the University of Colorado have investigated the impacts of beetle-infested forests on the water cycle, in particular, snow accumulation and melt. They concluded that dead forests will accumulate more snowpack as a result of thinner tree canopies and decreased snow sublimation. These thinned canopies also cause faster snow melt by allowing more sunlight through to the forest floor and lowering the snowpack albedo, as a result of needle litter on the snow surface.[32] Augmented snowpack coupled with dead trees that no longer transpire will likely lead to more available water.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Bob Ward: Colorado Wildfires Are Linked to Global Warming". Huffingtonpost.com. 2013-06-19. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
  2. ^ Erbilgin, Nadir; Ma, Cary; Whitehouse, Caroline; Shan, Bin; Najar, Ahmed; Evenden, Maya (30 October 2013). "Chemical similarity between historical and novel host plants promotes range and host expansion of the mountain pine beetle in a naïve host ecosystem". New Phytologist 201 (3): 940. doi:10.1111/nph.12573. PMID 24400902. 
  3. ^ a b [1][dead link]
  4. ^ Petit, Charles (2007-01-30). "In the Rockies, Pines Die and Bears Feel It". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-02-09. 
  5. ^ "Mountain pine beetle and forest carbon feedback to climate change". 2008-04-24. Retrieved 2009-07-16. 
  6. ^ Keeling, Christopher I.; Henderson, Hannah; Li, Maria; Yuen, Mack; Clark, Erin L.; Fraser, Jordie D.; Huber, Dezene P.W.; Liao, Nancy Y.; Roderick Docking, T.; Birol, Inanc; Chan, Simon K.; Taylor, Greg A.; Palmquist, Diana; Jones, Steven J.M.; Bohlmann, Joerg (2012-08-31). "Transcriptome and full-length cDNA resources for the mountain pine beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins, a major insect pest of pine forests". Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Dx.doi.org) 42 (8): 525. doi:10.1016/j.ibmb.2012.03.010. PMID 22516182. 
  7. ^ "Abstract | Draft genome of the mountain pine beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins, a major forest pest". Genome Biology. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
  8. ^ "Mountain Pine Beetle". Ext.colostate.edu. 2014-01-08. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
  9. ^ "US Forest Service Forest Insect and Disease Leaflet Mountain Pine Beetle". Fs.fed.us. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
  10. ^ "Mountain Pine Beetle - Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations - Province of British Columbia". For.gov.bc.ca. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
  11. ^ Mason, M. (1997). Defense Response in Slash Pine: Chitosan Treatment Alters the Abundance of Specific mRNAs. US Forest Service{{inconsistent citations}} 
  12. ^ Klepzig, K. (2003). Cellular response of loblolly pine to wound inoculation with bark beetle-associated fungi and chitosan. US Forest Service{{inconsistent citations}} 
  13. ^ O'Toole, Erin (2009-09-10). "Solution for Pine Bark Beetles May Help Front Range Trees". NPR Morning Edition - KUNC 91.5 FM Greeley, CO. 
  14. ^ Porter, Steve (2009-09-11). "Arming trees against pine beetle invasions". Northern Colorado Business Report. 
  15. ^ "Colorado State University Spraying Trees to Protect Against Mountain Pine Beetle: Common Questions for Landowners to Consider". Csfs.colostate.edu. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
  16. ^ "Thoughts on Verbenose use for Mountain Pine Beetle". Csfs.colostate.edu. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
  17. ^ "SPLAT (Specialized Pheromone & Lure Application Technology)". Iscatech.com. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
  18. ^ a b c Mafra-Neto, Agenor; de Lame, Frédérique M.; Fettig, Christopher J.; Perring, Thomas M.; Stelinski, Lukasz L.; Stoltman, Lyndsie L.; Mafra, Leandro E. J.; Borges, Rafael; Vargas, Roger I. (2013). "Manipulation of Insect Behavior with Specialized Pheromone and Lure Application Technology (SPLAT®)". In Natural Products for Pest Management. John Beck, Joel Coats, Stephen Duke, and Marja Koivunen Eds. American Chemical Society. 1141: 31–58. 
  19. ^ "British Columbia Forest Facts". Naturallywood.com. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
  20. ^ (Kumar 2009)
  21. ^ (MacLachlan)
  22. ^ "NASA Satellites Reveal Surprising Connection Between Beetle Attacks, Wildfire". Nasa.gov. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
  23. ^ a b "Beetles may doom Canada's carbon reduction target: study". Terradaily.com. 2008-04-23. Retrieved 2008-04-28. 
  24. ^ "Mountain Pine Beetle - Ministry of Forests and Range - Province of British Columbia". For.gov.bc.ca. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
  25. ^ [2][dead link]
  26. ^ "Rocky Mtn. Bark Beetle- Bark Beetle Managementhttp://www.2003firestorm.gov.bc.ca/". Fs.usda.gov. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
  27. ^ "Beetles shaping Montana's forest lands". The Missoulian. July 31, 2005. [dead link]
  28. ^ a b "Forest Service finds varied beetle activity". The Missoulan. February 14, 2010. 
  29. ^ "UM climate expert says triple-digit Julys will be norm". Billings Gazette. August 27, 2007. 
  30. ^ "Forecast: More air pollution, Study predicts global warming will increase fires in Northern Rockies". Billings Gazette. July 29, 2009. 
  31. ^ "Impacts of climate change from 2000 to 2050 on wildfire activity and carbonaceous aerosol concentrations in the western United States" (pdf). Journal of Geophysical Research (Acmg.seas.harvard.edu). 
  32. ^ "Mountain pine beetle activity may impact snow accumulation and melt". ScienceDaily. Retrieved 2014-02-14. 
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