Preventative measures Alaskan homeowners take in the spring could save their trees from being victims of spruce beetles this summer.

That's the topic of a workshop being hosted in Palmer this week by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service and the Alaska Division of Forestry.

"There are three stages: There's trying to prevent the tree from becoming infected, what to do when the tree is infected and what to do when the tree dies and that's all in here," Steve Brown said.

Brown is a UAF agriculture professor who knows the telltale signs when a tree is infected, including the pitch tubes on a dead spruce.

"The tree is trying to fight back by putting pitch into the holes," he said.

Brown said the past few mild winters have allowed the spruce beetle population to thrive, leading the insects to do extensive damage to Alaska's forests.

This picture taken over Southcentral Alaska shows the scope of the spruce beetle problem with hundreds of dead trees.

"I would call it a catastrophic attack but it is part of the natural process," he said. "It's been about 50 years since it last occurred in the Mat-Su Valley. But it's here and we have to deal with it."

By the time a tree on your land is dead, the only thing left to do is to cut it down so the beetles don't spread to surrounding trees.

Brown said the pests target weak trees, but there are measures people can take in the spring to protect healthy ones.

"One of the first things you can do is to cut off the lower six feet of the limbs, because that confuses the beetles when they're trying to find a new tree to move to," he said. "Probably the best thing you can do to help a tree is to fertilize it and water it."

He added that newly infected trees can still fight off the beetles if they're nurtured properly.

The spruce beetle workshop is from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday 17, in Kerttula Hall at the Mat-Su Experiment Farm in Palmer. People interested in attending should call (907) 745-3551.

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