Here we go again, catch us if you can
The lyrics to a popular song twenty years ago seem to summarize the feeling that I'm beginning to have about this growing season and the local "Friends-of-the-Pine" Chapter. Its is beginning to feel just a little too like 1988 for me to feel comfortable. Lawn sprinkling bans, burned out grass, the forecast of rain that is just an empty hope, and bark beetles. Yes, I said bark beetles, specifically the pine bark beetle, Ips pini. Much of the central part of the state is getting quite dry with only 35% of normal moisture since April 1st. Coupled with last year's "drought", there are the beginnings of some serious problems.
Bark beetles took center stage last fall and have not backed away even slightly this spring. Heavy snow fall and mild temperatures helped last years beetles survive. The cool spring slowed them down a bit, but kept the trees dormant as well. The season is full speed ahead at this point and I am personally expecting the emergence of a good brood of beetles any day now; beetles, hungry beetles, looking for a place to lay eggs for their second generation. The weather stress has created lots of habitat, so hang on for the ride.
A great many people that had been storing their pheromone traps since the ?88 drought have long since dusted them off, re-baited them and started to work on their beetle collection. Watering will be useful. The best time was last summer, the next best time was back in May. Now is useful, but will take some time to have a positive effect on tree health. In addition, trap trees is a useful technique for managing bark beetles. Thinning is always in order, but summer thinning during a beetle build up isn't a very good idea unless slash management guidelines are followed and logs leave the stand within three weeks of being cut.
Need more information on bark beetles? Your local Forest Ecosystem Health Specialist (see map at the end of the newsletter) has some excellent literature to send you. We can probably dig up a copy of the ole' bark beetle newsletter #4 that summarized treatment strategies if you ask, because as the song says, "Here we go again, . . . . . . "