2012-03-21

With habitat warming up, pine beetles are booming

Call it the beetle baby boom. Climate change could be throwing common tree killers called mountain pine beetles into a reproductive frenzy. A new study suggests that some beetles living in Colorado, which normally reproduce just once annually, now churn out an extra generation of new bugs each year. And that could further devastate the region’s forests.

Pine beetles, which scuttle from New Mexico north into Canada, are trouble for trees, says study co-author Jeffry Mitton, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Beginning in late summer along high-altitude sites in the eastern Colorado Rocky Mountains, for instance, swarms of hundreds or even thousands of these small black bugs will single out individual lodgepole pines or related trees, then advance on them en masse.