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Trees die, beetles and hail are to blame

Trees are dying in The Hills because of the Ips Engraver Beetle and hail.
Trees are dying in The Hills because of the Ips Engraver Beetle and hail.(Jeffrey Lindblom)
Published: Jun. 17, 2021 at 6:32 PM MDT|Updated: Jun. 17, 2021 at 6:33 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - South Dakota is home to the Black Hills National Forest, and at the core of it is vibrant tree life. Of which, the Forest Service has been receiving phone calls about from concerned citizens.

Kurt Allen, an Entomologist with the Forest Service, says “We’ve seen some different things that are causing trees to turn brown, or look brown, or turn color - the pine trees around here. What we’re looking at here is damage caused by hail, that actually occurred last summer. So, hail is actually just a physical damaging agent. As it’s hailing, it hits the branches and small twigs, and actually just the impact of the hail stone kills the twigs. Which, then kills the needles. These things are going to look a little bad for a couple years as they’re dropping all of those dead needles that have turned color, but as those fall off and new growth comes on they’ll come back.”

However, hail isn’t the damaging culprit to trees like these.

According to the Forest Service, when a tree has a reddish color, it actually implies that it’s been affected by beetle damage.

“This is the perfect habitat for Ips,” says Allen, “and so they come in here and at this point you’ll look on here and see all of the little holes in the bark here. These are actually from where the beetles have come out. So, if you look here. Like, this is underneath the bark. This is the wood underneath. Part of the reason they’re referred to as engraver beetles, you can see the galleries, they’re actually engraved into the woods. You’ll have little side ones coming off, those are where the eggs are laid and new beetles hatch and will grow to maturity.”

The Forest Service would like the public to know that these are Ips Engraver Beetles, not the Mountain Pine Beetle that plagued The Hills for Decades. They come with hot and dry climate. The only thing to do is hope for rain.

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