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Tree expert urges C.O. homeowners to beware of bark beetles, a growing issue due to severe drought

(Update: adding video, comments from a tree expert)

SISTERS, Ore. (KTVZ) -- As a result of years of drought, bark beetles are becoming a constant issue for Central Oregon property owners. An expert says homeowners should be aware of the beetles that infest pine trees.

Boe Brodhun, the owner of Urban Forest Tree Service in Bend, said Wednesday, "This has definitely been a problem -- what can be considered a sort of pandemic over the last few years, as a result of severe drought."

Brodhun explained the issue they've been seeing lately. 

"If a customer would like to thin their property, and they leave all the material after all of the trees are removed, if they leave any of the wood rounds, beetles will come in and infest that," he said.

The beetles will infest the trees in the spring and summer months, spreading to other, healthier trees.

The beetles bore underneath bark and live on the tissues in the tree. They disrupt the connection between the roots and the leaves, so the trees can't absorb water.

"A few of the beetles actually implement a fungi into the tree, called blue stain," he said.

Once that fungi is in the tree, it expands rapidly and blocks the vascular system in the tree.

The tree will then die in a matter of months or years, depending on how big the attack is.

It's not easy to identify until it's too late.

"Unfortunately, the only way to identify you have an issue is -- most of the time, people find out after the fact," he said.

If infected, the top of a pine tree will turn bright red or singular branches will be dead for no apparent reason. Dying trees also attract woodpeckers. 

There are some ways to protect your trees, Brodhun said. 

"The best practice is to have a very healthy space," he said. "One of the best things that homeowners can do is have bark mulch. It's to keep the ground at a temperature where you don't get a lot of evaporation in the hot months."

He also urged property owners to water trees more in the summer. 

Brodhun said there are some chemical preventatives too, but those are not as effective.

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Kelsey McGee

Kelsey McGee is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Kelsey here.


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