Summer is in full swing, which means you’re probably busy battling some of the many insects that invade the urban forest. Arborists across the country have myriad pests to manage, and each area of the U.S. presents its own challenges. Tree care crews in the Northeast are trying to control Asian longhorned beetle infestations. Those in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and the surrounding states are battling the emerald ash borer. In some Western states, a beetle outbreak is destroying acres of trees.

The mountain pine beetle, an insect native to western North America, is causing unprecedented damage to the forests of British Columbia, Montana and especially Colorado. Since the first evidence of an outbreak was detected in 1996, mountain pine beetles have killed over 3 million acres of lodgepole and ponderosa pine forests in Colorado, and the devastating outbreak does not seem to be slowing down. According to the 2010 Report on the Health of Colorado’s Forests, 229,000 acres of ponderosa pine were attacked by mountain pine beetle, compared to 22,000 acres in 2009 – an alarming increase.

The loss of the trees greatly affects the health of the ecosystem, and researchers have recently discovered evidence that suggests the damage could present flood risks. University of Colorado scientists conducted a study on the affect of dead trees on snowpack. Snow under dead trees was 15 percent deeper than under nearby live trees, and melted up to a week earlier. The amount of runoff from the snowpack under the needleless trees was also higher than the live trees, raising concerns about the potential for increased spring flooding.

With such a widespread outbreak, state resources are maxed out, and officials are depending on residents to monitor and maintain their own tress. In Larimer County, Colo., the county is authorized under state law to take steps to control forest pests, including bark beetles, if a private property owner will not. The property owner will then be billed up to $5,000 a year. If the charge is not paid, it’s added to the owner’s property tax bill.

An outbreak of this magnitude cannot be controlled without the effort of an entire community. Do your part to educate your clients on the importance of insect detection and control. See page 10 of this issue for an update on tree pests and diseases across the U.S.

Katie Meyers