Meet the New Beetles

Take a drive through the Rocky Mountains and one can clearly see the effects of the pine beetle epidemic, but look again; another tree-killing beetle is on the rise in the Western Mountains.

Pityogenes knechteli has quietly been multiplying in numbers over the last couple years. Twig beetles, as they are more commonly know, are not normally fatal to trees; however, the already stressed trees and the unusually high twig beetle population are causing even more trees to die.

Forest officials in Colorado first saw high numbers of the twig beetle last summer; most likely the twig beetles followed the pine beetle into Wyoming in areas decimated by the pine beetle epidemic, said U.S. Forest Service entomologist Bob Cain.

Although the outbreak is not expected to be as severe or long-lasting as the pine beetle epidemic is, the twig beetles cause a much more rapid mortality among younger trees. Twig infected trees will likely die in one summer where as pine beetle kill generally takes nearly a year.

Traditionally beneficial to trees in Wyoming, twig beetles have been know as helpers in forest health; usually they target weak or sickly branches and offer natural pruning. However, with numbers so high and prior stressed trees, the twig beetles are causing yet more trees in the beautiful Rocky Mountains to die.


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