Valli Vue Estates Property Owner's Association
Spruce Beetles


Beetle Numbers are Way Down But....
May 2002

The good news is that spruce bark beetle infestations in south-central Alaska have dropped precipitously, including the Anchorage bowl. The bad new is that the beetles are still with us.

In response to the Valli Vue Homeowners Association's call to arms in past years, our homeowners mobilized to fight the beetles with fairly significant results. A major portion of homeowners had their trees sprayed, resulting in a dramatic decrease in large spruce mortality. In fact, Valli Vue was written up in the 1996 US Forest Service Narrative Summary of Accomplishment under the Renewable Resource Extension Act as a successful model for local community forest management. So, what now?

Those who sprayed last year have a choice. US Forest Service research on the Kenai Peninsula has shown that proper spraying with either Lindane or Carbaryl (the two most common chemicals) provides almost 100 percent protection for two years. There are certainly some exceptions to these findings, but in general trees sprayed last year will probably be protected for this year. Spray contractors may disagree with a biennial spraying program, but they are not necessarily unbiased parties. If you have a tree(s), however, that you absolutely don't want to lose, you should consider spraying annually. Still, it is up to each homeowner to decide his or her level of comfort. Remember, if you don't spray annually, it is important that you keep accurate track of which of your trees are sprayed, and when.

The key is to spray high.
The original Forest Service recommendation of 25' proved wrong, and many trees had their tops killed. Some spray contractors can now reach 60', and that is the height you should strive for.

For those who did not spray last year: The probability of protection drops to between 85 and 90 percent during the third spring after spraying. Every spruce tree on your lot over 10" in diameter is at risk. Look around. Several owners who would not pay $10 to spray a tree have faced bills of several hundred dollars to have them cut down. Many dead trees were felled in Valli Vue last year because they had not been sprayed in time, and there undoubtedly will be more this year.

Longer term, we can probably expect the beetle infestation to regress further. Thus, if you sprayed last year and plan on a biannual spray program, you may need to spray perhaps two more times before the infestation runs its course.

How can I tell if a tree has been hit?
Look at every spruce on your lot 10" in diameter or larger. Look 360 around each trunk to a height of 8 feet for clean holes in the bark about the diameter of a BB pellet (2 MM). If you find any, you've got beetles. But you still may be able to save your trees.

Spruce beetles usually take one year to kill a tree, so if one of yours was mass attacked last year, it my be too late already. After the initial attack in May or early June, the eggs hatch into larvae that spend the first winter under the bark eating phloem sells. During the second summer/winter the larvae mature into adult beetles which leave to attack other nearby trees the following May and June. If one of your trees only received a partial attack last year, you may be able to save it before it is attacked again this coming May or June.

What can I do?
Three things. 1) Cut down dead or dying trees by May 20 before the adults fly to infest other nearby spruce. 2) Spray your trees (to 60 feet). 3) Deep water your trees to give them the moisture and nutrients to fight infestations naturally.

Cutting
By cutting dead or dying trees before May 25, and having them debarked (with all the bark burned), chipped, or buried (e.g., in the land fill), you will prevent further infestation of your other trees.

Spraying
By properly spraying your trees before May 25 (to 60') you can protect them for two years with little environmental or human safety impacts. You can do it yourself, but licensed commercial operators will do it for approximately $10 to $15 per tree (lasts two years). A tree first attacked last year may be saved by spraying if it received only a partial attack. But, beware -- several homeowners who either tried to do it themselves, or who thought they saved a few bucks with fly-by-night contractors, will be spending several hundred dollars to have there dead trees cut down. Use a reputable contractor.

Deep Water
This merely involves insuring that the roots receive lots of water, and ideally nutrients from regular grass fertilizer or special tree root formulas. "Deep" watering is really a misnomer because the vast majority of spruce roots are within 18" of the surface (but extend horizontally well beyond the tips of the furthest branches). This is a very important long term protection measure.

Why should I care?
The obvious aesthetics argument aside, loss of the old spruce trees will certainly lower all property values in Valli Vue (one of our main selling points). Also, tall dead spruce are a serious threat to your house as well as your neighbor's. They quickly dry out, lose their ability to sway, and merely snap at the base in a wind storm. Insurance companies may refuse to pay for damage when the threat of a dead tree was known by the homeowner. At a commercial rate of approximately $150 to remove a large tree, you can have it sprayed biannually (@ $10 to $15) for the next 10 to 15 years for the cost of having it removed .... plus you keep that lovely tree.

But what if my neighbor doesn't do anything?
The fate of your trees is in your hands. By cutting your dead/dying trees you protect your other trees from infestation (as well as your neighbor's), and by spraying you protect your trees from anyone's beetles. Hopefully you can impress upon your neighbors the importance for acting now.

What is the Valli Vue Homeowners Association doing about the beetle?
The Valli Vue Board of Directors had the dead trees cut and removed from the commons area, and had the commons area trees sprayed in April of 1999.

Who can I talk to about this?
Within Valli Vue you can call:

Mike Smith at 346-2467
Cal Kerr at 346-1624

or
for more technical information call:

Corlene Rose (Cooperative Extension Service) at 279-6575
Roger Burnside (Alaska Division of Forestry) at 762-2261

It's easy to click on the TV and ignore this threat, but it's very real, it's serious, and it's still here. Remember,

THE FATE OF YOUR TREES IS IN YOUR HANDS ALONE

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bonanza@alaska.net
907-333-1244