Friday, December 6, 2013

Pine Beetles and Our Cold Snap in Wyoming and Montana

After the temps reached a frigid -22 degrees F during the wee hours of the morning last night, it was a penetrating -12 degrees Farenheit when I took my dog for a walk this morning at 8:00 AM.
By 3:00 PM, it had warmed up to a balmy -11 F.  Here in the northern Rockies, we all whine about our current weather, but this latest and very intense deep freeze seems to have a silver lining!!
This is good news indeed for those living in Wyoming and Montana… and for those that love to fish Wyoming and Montana! 

“Cold outside?".

How cold is it?
Cold enough to kill a Pine Beetle!”
As the Montana temperatures dip down to the minus 10 to minus 20 degrees F this week with wind chills at -15 to -35 F we may look forward to Pine Beetle Mortality.  Regniere and Bentz published a paper in 2007 that discusses cold tolerance in the Mountain Pine Beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae. In it they discuss how the Pine Beetle is freeze intolerant and must avoid freezing of body tissues.  “The supercooling point (SCP) refers to the temperature at which spontaneous nucleation of body water occurs and lethal ice crystals form in the insect tissue.”  There is a lot of statistical data, charts and graphs including Lethal Temperature (LT) that will warm the cockles of a Science teachers heart in this paper.
Basically,  increased time duration at subzero temperatures can kill our little Pine Beetle dead lumber salesmen.  A quick review indicates that in most circumstances minus 20 degrees Centigrade (equal to -4 F)  is the median of the SCP and more than likely peak of pine beetle mortality.  With the -20 F we’re seeing now this could be a sharp die off for the Pine Beetle in Montana, especially if this cold weather lasts.
And that of course is good for possibly reducing the number of dead standing trees and lessoning our catastrophic fire hazard.
So rejoice in this cold spell!  We are mitigating those pesky pine beetles.
Kent Atwood

1 comment:

  1. That's more than a silver lining in my opinion. Beetle damage is horrific throughout the Rockies and some out here in the Cascades. I don't think we've gotten to -11 yet though. It was -3 on my thermometer this morning. I'm sure the beetles play some role in maintaining healthy forests. Maybe by thinning out the trees, allowing large forest fires, which in turn deposit minerals and foster renewed healthy growth. But for us puny humans who are only here for a short part of that cycle it sure sucks to see all that ugly, dead, red-brown forest.