Frisco fourth graders learn about pine beetles |

Frisco fourth graders learn about pine beetles

summit daily news
Summit Daily/Mark Fox

FRISCO – Fourth graders at Frisco Elementary School took a walk in the woods with a forester Wednesday to learn about the trees.

They watched as Rick Herwehe, president of A Cut Above Forestry, hatcheted some bark off a dead lodgepole pine. He showed the class of 25 a little mountain pine beetle wedged in the bark.

“This tree’s been dead for a few years,” he said. “This bug helped kill it.”

Martha Herwehe, Rick’s wife, teaches the class. She said the students have been studying the impacts of pine beetles on the forest “and how it will change as these kids grow up.”

The kids listened closely to Rick’s lecture.

“Never drill a hole into a live tree – because if you drill a hole into the tree it’ll just kill it,” said Max Johnsen, 9, after watching Rick use an increment borer on the dead lodgepole.

The borer is a hollow metal instrument that’s screwed into the center of the tree. When it’s removed, it pulls out a core about as big around as a ball-point pen. The growth rings can be counted to determine age.

The demonstration also included use of a rubber mallet to test a tree’s condition.

“If it sounds like a drum, it’s rotten and needs to be cut down,” Connor Babcock, 10, said.

Surrounded by healthy aspens with leaves turning yellow for fall, the tall lodgepole pine stood with just a few red needles.

“Old trees, when they get dried up, get a big crack in them,” Carson Fields, 9, said. “The pine beetles make little holes.”

A few steps away, some students found a conch mushroom the size of a shoe growing near the base of a fallen lodgepole pine. Rick said that’s a sign the tree was killed by the fungi that pine beetles carry.

The kids had to back off quickly after residents of a nearby beehive became agitated, and one stung a girl.

The students on Wednesday also learned to tell the difference among blue spruce, pine and fir trees.

“Spruce are spiny, or sticky, and firs are friendly,” Rick Herwehe explained.

Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or

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