Posted: Jun 20, 2012 2:43 PM by Dennis Bragg - KPAX News
Updated: Jun 21, 2012 7:45 AM
STEVENSVILLE- You see a lot of advertising about smokers fighting their bad habit with "the patch", but in the Bitterroot Valley a different kind of patch has been added to foresters' arsenals as they try to keep mountain pine beetles at bay.
Bitterroot National Forest crews have been deploying another tool to keep pine beetles from killing trees around popular campgrounds and trailheads.
Unlike the spraying of the insecticide Carbaryl, which has already been applied at key locations in the Bitterroot, the square Verbenone patches are tacked to trees in areas near streams where the spray can't be used.
The patches contain a chemical signal that basically tells the flying beetles there's nowhere to stay.
"What this pheromone does is that it tells the beetles this tree is already attacked, is already fully occupied with beetles, move on to another tree," Bitterroot National Forest spokesman Tod McKay explained.
"You know it's really like a no vacancy sign. I mean it's very much similar to saying, this tree is fully occupied, move on. So that's really what we're stapling up there," McKay added.
It's not hard to find evidence in the Charles Waters campground where crews really are on the front lines of the fight against the pine beetles.
Crews broke open a tree to show us how a tree has already succumbed to beetles before it could be sprayed. In just a few minutes a dozen beetles could be seen munching away at the cambium layer under the bark.
A typical tree can contain thousands of the tiny beetles when infested. So stopping that crowd from moving through the forest in a place like this campground is critical.
The Verbenone packets are good for about three to four months and the trick is getting them onto the trees right now before the beetles start to fly from tree-to-tree.
"Timeframe is very critical. We are here towards the end of June. The beetles' annual dispersal flight begin in early July. So it's critical that these things stay up and remain up through the summer. Or they're not going to work," McKay said.
Forest officials say that if you see the patches on trees, leave them be. You'll be doing your part to help in the beetle battle.