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Posted Mon Dec 22 2008: from Chemical & Engineering News:
Beetle Epidemic Escalates
...Colorado is among the hardest hit areas in what entomologists are calling one of the largest insect infestations in North America's recorded history. Stretching from British Columbia to as far south as New Mexico, millions of acres worth of pine trees have been killed by mountain pine beetles (Dendroctonus ponderosae) over the past few years. The trees' deaths pose ecological, social, and economic challenges. The threat of fire ranks among the biggest concerns, particularly as the rice-grain-sized beetles migrate from trees in sparsely populated higher altitudes to forests surrounding residential neighborhoods. This species of bark beetle is native to Western North America and infests trees as part of a natural cycle. Entomologists and chemical ecologists say several factors have contributed to the insect's recent population boom, including a 10-year drought that weakened the pines' natural defenses and winters warm enough that more of the beetle larvae can now survive. In areas where mountain pine beetle numbers equate to an epidemic, many trees are already dead. Simply removing the beetle-riddled arboreal carcasses is one of the only remaining options for controlling the epidemic, scientists say. Meanwhile, researchers are studying how the combination of other forestry management techniques and chemical tools may help save remaining trees from massacre by beetles.
[Read more stories about: global warming, invasive species]

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