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Individual Highlight

The 115 year Bark Beetle Saga in the Black Hills

Photo of 2011 landscape photo of mountain pine beetle devastation, northeast of Custer looking north to Harney Peak. U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service 2011 landscape photo of mountain pine beetle devastation, northeast of Custer looking north to Harney Peak. U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service Snapshot : This research chronicles the science, people, and destruction caused by mountain pine beetles primarily in the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming from 1902 through 2012. In the Black Hills, 39 plots with a variety of tree densities were established for various studies. In 1985, mountain pine beetles began attacking some of the plots and major tree mortality commenced in several of them in 1987. Trees on most of the plots experienced extreme mountain pine beetle pressure and of these, the only ones to have surviving trees had densities less 80 square feet of basal area per acre.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Graham, Russell T.  
Research Location : Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming
Research Station : Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS)
Year : 2016
Highlight ID : 959

Summary

Mountain pine beetles are a major destructive force of western forests. This study indicates the destruction of these beetles is equal to if not greater than wildfires. The story of mountain pine beetles could be made into a film noir. It has sex, murder, fights, incest, parasitism, infidelity, necrophilous (eating the dead), cannibalism, and predation. The metropolis of organisms living with the bark beetles includes mites, nematodes, fungi, yeasts, bacteria, and other organisms that help the beetles kill trees. Chemicals, electrocution, heating, burning, tree-cutting, and numerous other methods have failed to control the beetles. Mountain pine beetles organize their attacks through smell, touch, sound, sight, and taste. People study them, try to control them, are amazed by their vast destruction and as such, this has been a story in the making for over 115 years in the Black Hills. Forest Service scientists have put together this story in a new publication. In the Black Hills, the scientists established 39 plots with a variety of tree densities for various studies. In 1985, mountain pine beetles began attacking some of the plots and major tree mortality commenced in several of them in 1987. Trees on most of the plots experienced extreme mountain pine beetle pressure and of these, the only ones to have surviving trees had densities less 80 square feet of basal area per acre. Mountain pine beetles, their associated organisms, the forest conditions, climate, geographical setting, and all of their interactions contribute to a very complex and destructive forest disturbance that is poorly understood. More than 115 years of direct control of mountain pine beetles has failed to alter their destruction. Stands and landscapes within the Black Hills with tree densities ranging from 40 to 80 square feet of basal area per acre showed considerable resistance to mountain pine beetles.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Black Hills National Forest
 

Strategic
Program Areas

Priority
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