How to protect your trees from being destroyed by bark beetles
University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service staff say bark beetles are an important part of Alaska's ecosystem because they begin the decomposition process for dying or dead trees. The problem is when they attack live, healthy trees. Jessie Moan with the extension service says they have seen more bark beetle activity within Anchorage city limits over the last few years.
On Wednesday a tree-care company called Tall Trees planned to cut down six trees killed by spruce bark beetles at Jacob Mathiesen's home in Anchorage's Rogers Park neighborhood.
Mathiesen says he's concerned about fire danger, especially because of a recent fire just down the hill, where he says homeless people camp.
"These are dead trees real close to the house, don't want them to be a fire hazard there," Mathiesen said.
"Right now the beetles have emerged from trees that they were in last year and they're actively infesting new trees," said Tall Trees owner Mike Post.
Jessie Moan says people may have a spruce bark beetle infestation if they see what looks like reddish brown sawdust on different parts of the tree, like the base and cracks and fissures in the bark.
Moan says people may also see holes from woodpeckers on the tree as another sign that spruce bark beetles are present in the tree; they're going after the beetle larvae growing underneath the bark.
When beetles are present in trees it's hard to get them out and the tree will probably die, according to Moan. She says watering trees is important to keeping the beetles out in the first place. She says soil around a tree should be moist six to nine inches down. She advises people to water more if that soil is dry.
How far out from the trunk you water depends on how wide the tree canopy is. Find the widest part of the tree canopy and follow the line down to the ground. That's where the fine roots are — the ones that take in the majority of water and nutrients, Moan said.
She also says people may want to prune only in late fall and the winter because cutting a tree releases a chemical that attracts spruce bark beetles. If you do prune, remove the yard waste from the area.
Spraying trees is helpful to keep beetles away from a tree, but she advises people to research and understand what pesticides do before using them. Moan and Post both say spraying will not help if beetles have already invaded a tree.
Moan says she would be happy to answer any questions from the public about spruce bark beetles and trees; call her office number at 907-786-6309.
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