What is causing the pine trees to turn brown and red?

CUSTER — Many pockets of ponderosa pine trees are appearing red or brown on the landscape across the central and southern portions of the Black Hills National Forest. Many trees have hail damage from last summer and other small areas are turning brown due to the Ips engraver beetle.

Pine trees that have been struck by hail will show signs by the needles turning brown on the part of the tree that was damaged by hail. Parts of the tree that were not hit by hail remain green. These trees appear to be brown on one side and green on the other. Over time, the brown needles will fall off and the tree will produce new needles. Trees damaged by hail generally survive.

The brown pockets of trees that are randomly appearing throughout the forest in small groups are not due to the mountain pine beetle, but rather another insect called the Ips engraver beetle. Forest entomologists state that Ips beetles are more harmful to trees that are highly stressed, brought on by drought conditions.

 “Trees that are completely brown or red are dead and the beetles are no longer harboring in those dead trees,” said Kurt Allen, entomologist for the USFS Rocky Mountain Region. “Additional moisture can help other impacted trees recover and survive. Impacts from Ips engraver beetles are typically short lived and last for two to three years until they receive more moisture.”

Forest officials say it is operationally challenging and not economically feasible to commercially treat the scattered small stands of infected trees. Officials encourage people that are concerned about the trees on National Forest System land and want firewood, to obtain a firewood permit from a local Forest Service office and harvest the small pockets of dead trees if adjacent to their property.

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(1) comment


If people really cared about our Black Hills, they would burn their firewood where they buy it. Whether you buy your campfire firewood at a 7-11 or elsewhere, if you don't burn it all don't take it with you to another state. This is how the pine beetle infestations cross the country in a relatively short amount of time; by unwitting campers transporting firewood from state to state. If you really care about our forests, burn it where you buy it or leave it behind.

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