Pine Beetles Eat Through Western Forests

Huge bug infestation doing more damage than wildfires
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 16, 2008 12:51 PM CDT
Pine trees killed by beetles are shown in their rusty red color near Grandby, Colo., in this undated aerial photo provided by the Colorado State Forest Service.    (AP Photo/Colorado State Forest Service )
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(Newser) – The biggest infestation of mountain pine beetles in decades is devastating huge tracts of forest in the Western states, USA Today reports; forestry workers say the bugs are killing even more trees than the wildfires ravaging California's forests. The larvae consume the inner bark of trees, usually lodgepole pines, killing the tree—and creating fuel for more fires.

Forestry workers qualify that the beetles are a native species who play an important role in the forest ecosystem. Others warn, however, that rising temperatures mean the bugs are spreading to new areas and attacking species. "This is one of the canary-in-the-coal-mine warning signs," said one.