Vail spruce trees hit by new pest |

Vail spruce trees hit by new pest

Rick Herwehe of A Cut Above Forestry has been hired by the town of Vail to spray trees to combat a pine needle scale infestation. (Edward Stoner/Vail Daily)

VAIL – A tiny bug other than the infamous pine beetle is causing some big problems for trees in Vail.The town of Vail has hired an arborist to spray 450 Colorado spruce trees that are infested with pine needle scale, a tiny insect. The bugs are causing some trees to lose their needles, and they eventually could kill trees.”Almost every tree I’ve run across has it,” said Rick Herwehe of A Cut Above Forestry, whom the town has hired to treat the trees. “Some have very heavy infestation. Others are light.”Herwehe will be spraying trees through June to try to quell the infestation. A pesticide spray and an oil treatment will be used. The oil will be used near streams because the sprays are more toxic to fish and waterfowl. The insecticides also can be harmful to pets and humans. Herwehe will put up signs that alert people that spraying is going on. He will also alert nearby residents that spraying is happening. Treated areas are safe to enter once the spray has dried, Herwehe said. One of the worst cases in town is in Roger Staub Park, on Gore Creek in Vail Village. One large spruce tree has lost much of its foliage, while the tree beside it remains green and robust. But that seemingly healthy tree, upon closer inspection, had the tiny white scales on its needles, too. Herwehe will treat these trees with the horticultural oil because it is so close to Gore Creek.The infestation can spread when the bugs are cast by the wind from one tree to another.Ghiqui Hoffman, owner of the Laughing Monkey in Vail, said she’s concerned about the risks to people, pets and wildlife.”Is there not a biological way to deal with this?” she said.The twice-stabbed lady beetle or certain types of wasps can control pine needle scale in forest stands, according to Ohio State University Extension’s Entomology Department. Todd Oppenheimer, who is leading the project for the town of Vail, said he and Herwehe considered using beetles, but they deemed that method less effective.Oppenheimer said he’s comfortable with the insecticides. “We’re putting it down at very low concentrations,” he said.Herwehe said it’s very unlikely that the insecticides will hurt fish. He said 50 gallons of his oil solution would have to get into one acre-foot of water in order for it to reach a toxicity level that would kill fish.The horticultural oil can also make the trees lose their bluish hue.Another plan for beetlesHerwehe said he started spraying insecticide last week. He’s waiting for the insects to enter their crawling phase before he sprays again – that could be another week or two.More than one application may be necessary, Herwehe said. And another treatment will likely be needed next year, he said.Herwehe said he first noticed the bugs on trees in the last few years. But the problem has gotten much worse since then, he said. He hasn’t seen many trees outside Vail with the problem, though he’s encountered pine needle scale in Singletree, he said.The town of Vail, as well as other parts of the county and surrounding counties, is also in the midst of an infestation of pine beetles in its lodgepole pines, especially above the Intermountain neighborhood. The Forest Service and the town of Vail have collaborated to create a plan to combat the spread of pine beetles and to lower the risk of wildfires. That plan, which is supposed to be implemented this year, is under appeal.Forest Service tree specialist Jan Burke said she’s not aware of pine need scales in the national forest. While the pine beetles can kill trees within a course of a year, pine needle scales take several years to defoliate a tree enough to kill it.Homeowners who suspect their spruce trees are infested with pine needle scale should contact an arborist, the town said.

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