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Black Forest residents respond to beetle infestation of trees

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) -- Trees that survived the Black Forest Fire ten years ago are now under attack by beetles.

KRDO NewsChannel 13 has learned that some homeowners, instead of trying to save ponderosa pine trees at risk, are simply cutting them down.


The extent of this beetle infestation is unclear; similar infestations have wiped out miles of forests across Colorado as trees have been weakened by drought.

Trees killed by beetles can also become potential fuel for wildfires.


Some homeowners blame the mountain pine beetle; the Colorado State Forest Service was unavailable for comment Thursday.

Jim Robertson said that he recently noticed two dying trees outside his home near the intersection of Shoup and Hardin roads.


"I tried to cut them down myself, then I noticed other trees in the same condition. I thought I could take them all down myself, but it became too big of a job. I've lived here since 2010 and made it through the fire (in 2013) and I've never had a beetle problem like this before."

Robertson hired a Colorado Springs arborist, Kellen Miller, to cut down nearly 90 medium- and large-sized trees.


"These beetles usually come in cycles every few years," he explained. "But this is the worst I've ever seen them. I think it's a combination of trees weakened by drought, and all of the rain we've had."

He also said that the beetles and thriving on properties where forests are too think and should be thinned.


“If a green tree goes brown in a month, something’s wrong with it," said Miller, who owns Green Cycle Tree Care. "But what’s more realistic, is if you’re just walking around your property, take a second to look at the trunks. It’s really easy. If you see tiny holes where beetles have bored in, those trees are probably infected."

He said that the spike in beetle infestations started a month ago, and he's already worked on 20 tree removals -- and his schedule is already booked through summer.


"It's going to cost me $5,000 to cut down the infested trees," Robertson said. "But I'm saving money because I don't have to pay to have them hauled away. I'm going to use the for firewood for me and my friends."

He added that he may eventually plant aspen and other variety of trees to replace the lost pines.


Robertson's neighbors are taking other measures to protect their trees and limit the beetle infestation; one homeowner is sealing infected trees in plastic, while another plans to hire someone to spray them with insecticide.

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Scott Harrison

Scott is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Scott here.


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