Beetle infestation on the rise in Frisco |

Beetle infestation on the rise in Frisco

Summit Daily/Kristin SkvorcPine beetles attack lodgepole pines soon after their flight period in early summer. Here, a member of Mountain Pine Beetle Surveying shows a scar from a pine beetle. Recent surveying revealed a total of 740 infested trees on 180 different sites in Frisco.

FRISCO – This autumn, many of Frisco’s pine trees will be decked in varieties of red – dead red.Due to the drought and the mild weather of the last several seasons, the mountain pine beetle has made major inroads into the town’s lodgepole pine population. A recent survey performed by Summit County’s Mountain Pine Beetle Surveying revealed a total of 740 infested trees on 180 different in-town sites. Last year, 252 trees were infected, and the year before that, only 60.These increases have members of Frisco’s Public Works Department concerned. This past week, homeowners throughout the town have come home to find affected trees in their yards marked with orange paint by Mountain Pine Beetle Surveying teams. Letters will go out to those homeowners sometime in October or November, requesting that the trees be removed, at the homeowner’s expense, no later than July 1. “These bugs usually fly in July and August,” explained Rick Higgins, Frisco Public Works deputy director.Surveying used to be done in the spring, after which the department would compile the information, figure out which trees were on whose property and send out a letter in late May.

“What we’re trying to do this year is get the information out to the homeowner sooner,” Higgins said. “Sending out a letter in October or November gives them six months to make plans instead of two months. Sometimes it’s difficult for homeowners to find someone to remove the trees for them right away.”What happens if a homeowner doesn’t respond?”We’ve never had to broach the subject, luckily,” said Brad Thompson from Public Works. “People have been pretty responsive.” Thompson said that the biggest difficulty is in tracking down second homeowners, of which Frisco has plenty. “We use water bills and tax information, so we can always find them,” he added.”Overall, citizens have been receptive,” said Higgins. “And the majority of people do take care of their trees.” In the meantime, the department is urging people to do preventive sprayings so that trees which have not been hit can be spared. Mountain pine beetles attack lodgepole pines soon after their flight period in early summer.

“Beetles experience the world through smells,” Higgins said. “Other beetles pick up the scent, and that’s what attracts them to the host tree.” They also carry a blue stain fungus. It hitches a ride with the beetle and stops the flow of resin in the tree. Drought only encourages the situation. “In 2001, we had blind attacks,” said Higgins. “The trees during the drought stage couldn’t produce enough resin.”Mountain pine beetles are particularly attracted to trees that have been stressed out for the last five or six seasons by drought. Density plays a part as well. Mountain beetles love dense, thick forests with little sunlight or wind ventilation. Trees in Frisco’s Peninsula are particularly vulnerable, not only because of the density of the area’s forestation, but also because of their age. Most of them are fully-matured trees averaging 100 to 150 years old. This year, the situation on the Frisco peninsula is unusually serious. According to Higgins, the town removed close to 4,000 trees on the peninsula last year. “There will probably be more than that this year,” he predicted.Because of these factors, the department in is the process of developing a forest management plan, which includes taking inventory of the peninsula’s 217 acres and making plans to deal with everything unwelcome, from noxious weeds to pine beetles.

“In the peninsula, we’re dealing with what we call ‘direct control’ versus ‘indirect control,'” Higgins said. “‘Direct control’ is removing the tree. ‘Indirect control’ is introducing more diversified forest. We’re planting more firs, more spruce, more aspen, more cottonwood.”Higgins added that cutting to generate more growth is also planned, as well as thinning to bring in more wind and solar gain. So far this year, the town of Frisco has spent about $30,000 dollars cutting down and removing trees on the peninsula, as opposed to about $8,000 dollars for in-town removal on city property.”It is disappointing,” Higgins said. “The town has made a great effort, and we have improved the situation, but it’s still not a good situation.”Last year, Frisco Public Works had to contact 75 homeowners to request tree removal. This year, early results of the survey promise that these numbers will increase.”Nothing’s going to change very quickly unless people start preventive spraying,” said Thompson, “and unless we get a good cold winter.” Higgins agreed, adding, “These little bugs can mess up your best-laid plans.”Keely Brown can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or at

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