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Trees beware: Warren’s trees at risk of being bugged to death

F. E. Warren AFB, Wyo. -- The Ips hunteri is a creature most people here are unfamiliar with. It's small, foreign and most important of all, hungry. Because of a recent increase in their population, local trees might experience a decrease in number. The Spruce Ips Bark Beetle has moved in and now calls the trees of Cheyenne and Warren home.

Many trees in Cheyenne are being affected by the beetle. Although there are many reasons why trees die in the local area, evidence of the beetle's presence has been found:

- Reddish-brown or yellow dust collects in bark crevices or around the base of the tree.

- Affected parts of the tree discolor and die.

- The tree begins to die from top to bottom.

- Small round holes forming in the bark.

- Tunneling patterns appearing under the bark or where the bark has been removed.

In places such as Alaska and in other northern states, the beetles have proven to be devastating to forested areas.

"In a place such as Wyoming that has large areas of forest, this is a real big problem," said Tech. Sgt. Loren Mein, 90th Civil Engineer Squadron. "Warren would have to have some kind of magical protective barrier for the beetles not to affect us. That's just not the case."

Sergeant Mein is a member of Warren's Entomology office.

The beetles lay eggs under the tree bark to survive. Once situated, they feed off the insides, targeting main nutrient and moisture veins which damages the tree and eventually kills it. They like to target trees that are drier than normal or over watered.

Many of the trees here are more than a century old suggesting the beetles are new to the area, and could spark the question "how did they get here?"

"One way the beetles got here could be by people bringing wood from other parts of the country," Sergeant Mein said. "Now in some areas, there are laws that prohibit the transfer of wood from state to state to prevent events like this."

People who transfer bundles of fire wood run the risk of having contaminated bundles.

In order for homeowners to protect against the beetles, they are encouraged to buy fire wood in the local area, not store wood bundles around trees, strip already cut wood of its bark and should contact a local arborist immediately if an infestation is suspected.

Not even the long, cold winter months are enough to hinder the beetle's efforts. They simply live underneath the tree's bark until warm weather returns. The entomology offices still have to conduct investigations as to why many of Warren's trees are dying but one fact remains; The Spruce ips bark beetle is here as a rather unwelcome guest.