Skico, Forest Service try to fool bark beetles | AspenTimes.com

Skico, Forest Service try to fool bark beetles

The Aspen Skiing Co. and U.S. Forest Service are teaming to trick bark beetles into avoiding susceptible Douglas fir trees on about 10 acres at Aspen Highlands.The Skico and Forest Service are releasing a pheromone that is essentially a “no vacancy” sign for beetles. Aspen District Ranger Bill Westbrook said 350 capsules containing a pheromone called meta-cyclo hexane, or MCH, were released at Highlands when the slopes closed in April.Forest Service entomologist Tom Eager suggested the program as an environmentally friendly and inexpensive way to save the Douglas firs.”Bark beetles use an attracting pheromone to attract other beetles to mass attack prospective hosts,” Eager wrote in an e-mail Westbrook provided. “Once the host has been ‘filled up’ by the beetles, they use an ‘anti-aggregant pheromone’ to ‘tell’ later arriving beetles that the host is already occupied.”No details were available Tuesday about where the Forest Service applied the pheromone on the mountain. The funds will come from the Forest Health Management Program in the White River National Forest.Eager’s e-mail warned the pheromone treatment is a “wonderful tool” but not a final step in dealing with Douglas fir beetles. Thinning tree stands and promoting age diversity will be necessary, he wrote.The Forest Service is also helping the Skico battle a different beetle attack on lodgepole pine trees. Westbrook said Forest Service officials are identifying lodgepoles beetles have attacked at Highlands, and Skico crews are cutting down the afflicted trees. Once on the ground, the trees will be wrapped in plastic. Beetle larvae will be unable to emerge, spread to other trees and mate.On Aspen Mountain, the Forest Service and Skico are cutting down trees suffering from a form of root rot.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com