Beetles aren't to blame for forest fires, study confirms

Over the last two decades, the mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) has infested millions of acres of forest in the Rocky Mountains.

But while the small, black-colored species of bark beetle may be destroying ponderosa and lodgepole pine trees, it's not making forest fires more probable or powerful -- that according to researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder.

The beetle and microbial partners can be found infesting pine trees throughout western North America, stretching from Mexico to central British Columbia. And the insect's destruction has grown more prevalent in recent years, as warmer temperatures and lengthier droughts both encourage the pest's population growth and weaken trees' defense mechanisms.