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The Rocky Mountain Collegian

The Student News Site of Colorado State University

The Rocky Mountain Collegian

Ips beetles cause spikes in spruce tree deaths

A+spruce+tree+stump+outside+the+Lory+Student+Center+Lagoon+Nov.+9.

Collegian | Gregory James

A spruce tree stump outside the Lory Student Center Lagoon Nov. 9. The tree was cut down because it was infested with ips beetle colonies. Ips beetles, also known as engraver beetles, target pine trees of all varieties but mainly target spruce trees, tunneling through the tree and bark, which kills the tree.

Miles Buchan, Staff Reporter

Last month, the City of Fort Collins issued a press release warning city residents of “a dramatic increase in spruce tree deaths caused by the ips beetle.” Ips beetles are indigenous to Colorado and are known to inhabit and kill spruce trees.

Among other reasons, the dry, warm and windy weather occurring over the past year has caused the spread of ips beetles in Colorado. Ips beetles attack trees that are experiencing some form of stress and do not typically impact healthy trees. That being said, once a tree is infested with ips beetles, it can be killed relatively quickly.

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The ips beetle begins to kill spruce trees from the top down, which is why the top of a spruce tree being dead is the primary way to recognize the presence of ips beetles. Senior Forestry Specialist Carrie Tomlinson said at this stage, an infested tree can be dead within three to six weeks.

“Because these are historic trees, it’s very difficult for owners to commit to removal. They have to figure out emotionally when they’re ready to let trees go.” –Carrie Tomlinson, Fort Collins senior forestry specialist 

Tomlinson stressed the importance of taking action and contacting a licensed arborist or the Fort Collins forestry department as soon as a tree has been infested. Once a tree has become infested with ips, they are liable to spread to surrounding trees, which is why it is important to remove all trees with ips.

Tomlinson said that when an older tree dies, it can often have a large emotional impact on home and property owners.

“Because these are historic trees, it’s very difficult for owners to commit to removal,” Tomlinson said. “They have to figure out emotionally when they’re ready to let trees go.”

Ralph Zentz, assistant city forester with the City of Fort Collins, commented on the timely removal of infested trees as well. Drawing on his 36 years of experience as a member of the forestry department as well as the latest research, Zentz said, “I think a lot of people think they can cure their trees if it has ips, but our research shows that once you see the top die, it’s very unlikely to recover.”

Over this past summer, Tomlinson said the forestry service had to remove 30 medium-to-large trees from public property.

“It’s shocking too because I just moved to Fort Collins,” Tomlinson said. “Seeing big, beautiful trees go is hard.”

The key to preventing ips beetles from killing spruce trees is maintaining trees’ health. Both Zentz and Tomlinson emphasized the importance of watering trees in Fort Collins as much as possible. It is recommended that trees be watered throughout the year: once per week during the warmer months and twice per month in the colder ones.

Reach Miles Buchan at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @buchanmiles.

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