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Chasing down beetles

JULIE SUTOR
summit daily news
Summit Daily/Reid Williams
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FRISCO ” Clad in bright orange vests, pine beetle surveyors Jay Weiss and Brian Capehart wound their way through the neighborhoods of Frisco this week.

“This is a classic one,” Weiss said, standing under a lodgepole pine in a yard on Rose Crown Circle, as Capehart sprayed a blue ring of paint around the trunk. “It’s got old hits, some new hits and some exit holes.”

By Thursday afternoon, four workers from Mountain Pine Beetle Surveying had inspected every single lodgepole pine tree in the town for “hits,” or pitch tubes, a beetle’s entry point into a tree; exit holes, where young beetles leave the tree; and galleries of wriggling, quarter-inch-long, cream-colored larvae.

All of these signal that a pine tree has been infected by the forest-killing insect that has been chomping its way through Summit County in recent years.

And once a surveyor’s blue ring encircles a trunk, the property owner bears the responsibility of arranging the tree’s removal before the larvae mature and take flight in early June, free to kill surrounding trees.

Homeowners with infested trees will receive a letter from the Frisco Public Works Department within the next two weeks, asking them to make arrangements with a tree service contractor before the insects spread to healthy trees as the temperature rises.

“The woods are pretty unhealthy now,” Weiss said. “Mother Nature is just stepping in, doing what she needs to do to keep us in check. It’s like watching a wildfire in slow motion.”

On town-owned land, Frisco employees are “full-speed ahead,” according to deputy public works director Rick Higgins.

“Some areas are so heavily infested that it would be easier to paint the trees that aren’t infected,” Higgins said of forested land at the Frisco Peninsula Recreation Area.

“It’s disappointing walking around out there, but we think we’re doing the right thing, with as much recreation as we’ve got down there and the fire danger being high from campgrounds nearby,” he added.

In past years, public works employees have seen about 100 infected trees an acre at the peninsula. This year, the figure has jumped to 300, Higgins said.

“We used to see 10 to 12 hits on a tree. Now we’re seeing 30. They’re in there like you wouldn’t believe,” he added.

Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 203 or jsutor@summitdaily.com.


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