Home > South Dakota > SD Ag Summit Part 6: Some thoughts about the Pine Beetle

SD Ag Summit Part 6: Some thoughts about the Pine Beetle

July 16, 2014

Day 1 of the Governors Agricultural Summit in Deadwood, South Dakota, included a tour looking at the impact of the current Pine Beetle infestation in the Black Hills. Since I live East River I must admit I knew little about the Pine Beetle; and what little I thought I knew was wrong. I lost all of my notes from day 1 of the Summit, so I will post a few pictures and a couple of thoughts about the Pine Beetle situation. I’ve also included a video at the end of this post to learn more about the Pine Beetle situation in the Hills.

The majority of the presentation was done by SDSU Professor & Forestry Specialist John Ball. This guy has spent years studying and talking about the Pine Beetle situation in the Hills. At the end of this post is a video of Professor Ball speaking about the Pine Beetle at a different event. The video is well worth watching.

SDSU Professor John Ball speaking about Pine Beetles outside of Deadwood. Photo by Ken Santema

SDSU Professor John Ball speaking about Pine Beetles outside of Deadwood. Photo by Ken Santema

Since I’m not afraid to admit when I was ill-informed on a situation.. here are some portions of Professor Ball’s presentation that clear up previous misconceptions I had:

  • The Pine Beetle is NATIVE to South Dakota. It is not an intrusive species brought from outside as I had believed it was.
  • The Pine Beetle does not go from tree to tree throughout the summer devastating the forest. There is only 1 migration per year. I’ve seen mainstream media reports make it seem otherwise.
  • Burning over-infested portions of the forest is not a workable solution. Such an approach may in fact have the required result. But it is unlikely the landowners in the path of such a fire would line up to become part of such a solution. Can’t say I blame them.
  • Mass spraying from the air will not help. The trees that are sprayed have to be done directly on the bark with a high PSI, and must cover at least the bottom 50 feet of a tree. It would be impossible to do that from the air.
  • The Pine Beetle is an important component of the ecosystem in the Black Hills. Total elimination of the beetle would be unwise (even if it were possible).
  • These outbreaks happen in the Hills on a regular basis. This is the worst outbreak in known history. It is not yet known whey these outbreak begin, or why they end.
  • The bluish tinted lumber caused during a Pine Beetle attack on a tree still has commercial value. A smart entrepreneur could find a market to increase the value of this wood. This would allow the landowners removing this lumber to finance the fight against the Pine Beetle.

One thing I found interesting is the sap that gets excreted from the tree during a Pine Beetle attack. The sap leakage is actually the tree’s built-in self-defense mechanism. By excreting sap, the tree is trying to push Pine Beetles out of its bark.

Trees use sap as a defense against the Pine Beetle. Photo by Ken Santema

Trees use sap as a defense against the Pine Beetle. Photo by Ken Santema

The blue fungus created as a side-effect of a Pine Beetle infestation changes the appearance of the wood. But the wood still has many potential commercial uses.

Blue fungus is a side-effect of Pine Beetle attacks. Photo by Ken Santema

Blue fungus is a side-effect of Pine Beetle attacks. Photo by Ken Santema

One of the best ways to cull the numbers from an infected tree is to cut it into sections as shown.

Cutting infected trees into sections seems to be a great way to cull the numbers of the Pine Beetles. Photo by Ken Santema

Cutting infected trees into sections seems to be a great way to cull the numbers of the Pine Beetles. Photo by Ken Santema

There are some “tools” that can be used to fight bark beetles. Unfortunately the methods that work on some species do not work with the Pine Beetle. Any landowner fighting the Pine Beetle will have to carefully research the best methods that actually work.

Some potential technology used against beetles. Photo by Ken Santema

Some potential technology used against beetles. Photo by Ken Santema

I may do some future posts about the Pine Beetle. It is unclear at this point. If I do it will likely revolve around the following topics:

  • Federal government has made the current outbreak much worse because it wouldn’t let the beetle be fought on federal lands. This has caused private landowners next to federal lands problems. The federal government now is allowing something to be done on federal land, but it is too late to mitigate the damage already done.
  • Ways should be found to allow private landowners to fight the beetle without taxpayer subsidies. This is more about getting government out of the way.
  • The logging industry must be allowed to survive in the Hills. Without that industry present it is unlikely the battle against the pine beetle could be effectively waged.
  • Why the hell does the federal government own so much land in South Dakota.

Here is a presentation from Professor Ball and Kurt Allen, who is a USDA Forest Service Entomologist. The presentation is worth watching for people such as me that knew little about the pine beetle.

%d bloggers like this: