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Protect Trees From Spruce Ips Beetle

Rocky Mountain National Park

We know of the damage being done across the west by the Mountain Pine Beetle. But that’s not the only insect doing harm to Colorado’s native and urban forests. The Colorado state tree is being attacked. Thousands of stately, mature Colorado spruce trees are being cut down in cities along the Front Range. All because of a beetle less than a quarter of an inch long. 

Spruce Ips Beetle is part of a group of Engraver Beetles. All of these beetles create tunnels or galleries under the tree bark. These tunnels destroy the flow of food killing large sections of the tree.

Ips Beetles over-winter under the bark of spruce trees. They usually produce two generations of young each year. One after they emerge in April and the other generation is produced in July. If we have a mild fall a third hatching can happen in October. Because they reproduce so quickly Ips has become a big problem. 

Stressed or damaged trees are the first to be attacked by Spruce Ips Beetle. Large, old spruce that have gotten little supplemental water are extremely susceptible. Also trees damaged by snow and wind are attractive to the bug. 

Unfortunately by the time the outward symptoms show up the most severe damage is already done. Symptoms first show up in the top portion of a spruce.  The needles become light green to yellow.  More needles are dropped from the tree than normal. Ultimately the damaged portion of the tree dies. If you are unsure about your tree call a certified arborist or your local urban forestry office.

Reproducing Ips Beetles can send hundreds of young to infect other trees. Once a tree is infected the best solution is to cut down the tree. From Fort Collins to Colorado Springs trees have been condemned and removed. 

Preventative chemical sprays are difficult to apply. The trunk of the tree needs to be soaked with the spray. This is difficult because of the dense structure of spruce trees. The spray needs to be timed in April and July just before new eggs are laid. Spraying probably won’t help an already infested tree. 

A healthy tree is the best defense against Spruce Ips Beetle. Supplemental watering is essential. Water during the driest times of the year will help.  Supplement water in early spring if we aren’t getting our heavy, wet spring storms. Sign your tree up for a feeding and spraying program with a licensed tree care professional. 


Tom has been offering garden advice on KUNC for almost two decades. During that time he has been the wholesale sales manager at Ft. Collins Nursery, Inc. Since January of 2005 he has been the owner and operator of Throgmorton Plant Management, LLC., a landscape installation and maintenance company as well as a horticultural consulting firm. He lives in northern Ft. Collins with his wife and two kids.
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