‘Perfect Storm’ fuels Wyoming pine beetles

The state of Wyoming is in the spotlight today as part of 50 Stories, 50 States, 50 Days, an interesting blog project from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Since Earth Day, April 22, the agency and its partners are sharing 50 different stories over 50 days focusing on 50 states to tell how climate change is affecting (or may affect) wildlife across the country.

Today, Wyoming’s mountain pine beetle infestation is the daily story on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 50 States, Stories, Days blog. While you’re at the 50-stories blog, check out tales of how rising temperatures are affecting animals and ecosystems in other states.

Lodgepole pine forests in parts of Wyoming and other areas of the Intermountain West are being infested by the native mountain pine beetle – a voracious bug smaller than your little fingernail that is thriving in a warming climate.

Triggered by a “perfect storm” of extended droughts, warm winters, and old, dense forests, mountain pine beetle populations have exploded across a landscape of lodgepole pine trees throughout Colorado and southeastern Wyoming.

The mountain pine beetle is a true predator on many western pine trees because to successfully reproduce, the beetles must kill host trees. They typically kill trees already weakened by disease or old age, but even a healthy tree’s defensive mechanisms can be exhausted when beetle numbers are at epidemic levels. The beetle attacks pines in late summer, dispersing a chemical signal that attracts other beetles to mass-attack the tree. When the beetles bore through the bark of the tree, they introduce blue-stain fungus, which can work quickly to kill the tree.

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