The Homeowner’s Guide to Preventing IPS Beetle Infestation In Denver

During winter months preying insects typically disappear from sight and it feels safe to let your guard down and take a break from tree and plant care. But signs of the IPS beetle may still be present. Learn more about this threat and how it could affect your trees.

The leaves have fallen, the air is chilly, and snow is arriving. This winter weather keeps us indoors catching up on a good book or our favorite Netflix shows. It certainly doesn’t feel like the time for tree or plant care!

You might be ready to burrow under a blanket and catch up on some must needed rest, but at Fielding Tree and Shrub Care, tree care happens all year round. Just this month our arbor experts spotted evidence of the destructive IPS beetle while out on a Denver job site!

This thorough guide covers everything you need to know about the IPS beetle in Denver, proactive strategies for preventing infestation, and methods of fighting an established infestation. Contact our arbor experts to craft a plant health care plan specialized for your plants and trees.

What is the IPS Beetle?

Often called an engraver beetle, these dark brown beetles mark and carve the wood of a tree as they feed on its phlegm. Hence the name engraver beetle! IPS beetles often go undetected due to their small size. They are a mere 1/8 to 3/8 in long. They can be reddish-brownish or black in color.

The growing number of IPS beetles in Denver is concerning. Presently, there are more than eleven species native to the area. The IPS beetle is spreading more rapidly than other pests because it can withstand the cold winter temperatures and has 2-4 generations per year. The beetles are active from early March all the way through November.

What Types of Denver Trees Do IPS Beetle Target?

IPS beetles typically target and attack pine and spruce trees. Their favorite Denver varieties include Blue Spruce, Englemann Spruce, Ponderosa Pine, Pinyon Pine, Noble Fir, and Subalpine Fir. More often than not, the beetles go after easy prey- trees that are already stressed or dying. 

Poor conditions caused by drought, windthrow, fire, cause major IPS beetle population build-ups. Denver trees specifically have experienced drought followed by heavy snow and high winds that lead to injured or broken branches and create a major spike in the IPS beetle population in the area.

According to the Colorado State University Extension, trees along the northern Front Range are suffering the most. Here, IPS beetles are responsible for killing a significant number of high-elevation lodgepole pines and also in some lower elevations, ponderosa pines. They are even killing large numbers of healthy trees!

This unprecedented behavior from the IPS beetle is concerning and calls for greater attention to infestation prevention.

How Can I Tell If My Tree Is Infested?

As you monitor your trees, you’ll need to know what signs to look for. The presence of the IPS beetle is serious, and if you are concerned about infestation you should contact our arbor experts immediately! Follow this guide from the Colorado State University Extension to check your trees for signs of infestation:

  • Infected trees display signs of rapid fading early in the spring, during the summer, late summer, or early fall. Fading can be at the top part of the tree or the whole tree. 
  • An infested tree will not usually produce pitch-tubes (as in mountain pine beetle) from an IPS attack. If pitch-tubes are produced they are usually very small and covered with boring dust (cinnamon color). 
  • Reddish boring dust can be found at the base of the tree or on the bark crevices. You can look for the boring dust at any time during the warmer months. 
  • IPS beetles leave a path or gallery under the bark. Galleries made by the adults are very distinct, they have a “Y” or “H” shaped pattern. They are also clear of sawdust, unlike the sawdust-filled galleries of mountain pine beetle. 
  • Woodpecker feeding on the main stem of the tree or on large branches in the canopy is a common sign.
  • If the whole tree has faded, the insects may have already flown. To determine whether they are still in the tree, peel back an area of bark the size of a deck of cards at eye level on the main trunk. If you see many live insects, the tree is still infested – if you find none, and find many small, circular exit holes on the outer surface of the bark, the insects have already left.
  • Trees that are still infested with IPS beetles should be cut down and chipped or debarked to prevent spread. 

Proactive Strategies for Preventing IPS Beetle Infestation in Denver

With careful planning, it is possible to get ahead of pests and protect your trees. Our team at Fielding Tree & Shrub Care can consult with you on the best practices for pest prevention and plant health care. Our skilled team will create a prevention plan that meets your unique needs. Here are some of the best proactive strategies you can use to fight off tree-attacking pests:

Effective Monitoring

Now, more than ever, it is important to properly monitor your property to detect the presence of pests.  If you keep a close eye on your pine and spruce trees for the IPS beetle, you can detect and remove them early on. When their populations are low, they are easy to stop. Each pest lays its eggs or is particularly visible during a certain season. For example, the best time to monitor for the IPS beetle is during the winter. Catching signs of the IPS Beetle in the winter months means you can handle the problem before spring when the beetle will spread diseases to other trees and plants.

It takes a trained eye to notice the subtle signs of pests. Schedule our certified arborists for routine monitoring of your trees and plants. Finding and stopping pests before they colonize is key to fighting tree and plant infestation!

Necessary Watering

It’s no secret that trees and plants thrive when they are well watered. Receiving the proper amount of water helps plants and trees stay healthy enough to fight off infection and repel attacks made by pests. Trees that experience drought become weak and are more vulnerable to IPS beetle infestation.

Watering your trees and plants probably isn’t on your mind during the winter, but trees still need it! Different types of trees and soil require varying amounts of water. There are several factors that determine how much water your plant or tree needs:

  • Tree maturity
  • Tree species
  • Location
  • Soil type
  • Season

If you are unsure how much hydration your plants require, consult an expert from our team today.

Consistent Pruning

Dead leaves clinging to a plant and around its base attract unwanted insects. Don’t give pests an invitation! Mindfully incorporate pruning into your weekly plant care routine. Remove plant litter and observe the overall health of your tree or plant as you prune.

Don’t want to brave the cold? Leave the pruning to our arbor experts!

Your Options for Fighting Pest Infestation and Tree Disease

The life of your tree is at stake, and you can save it. If you know that IPS beetles have been confirmed in your area, you need to take action. The priority now is to choose a safe, effective course of treatment and swiftly execute it. Here are a few effective treatments for fighting the IPS beetle:

Spraying

In many instances, an effective method for eliminating a pest infestation is spraying the tree or plant with pesticide or fungicide. Only trained arborists should apply spray pesticides. The goal of spraying the pesticide is to kill the present infestation, but the drawback is that it could inadvertently reach and contaminate nearby plants. As a rule of thumb, our Fielding Tree & Shrub Care team does not use spray treatments out of respect for the environment, your family’s health, and your pets’ health as well.

Injection

Some pest infestations happen beneath the surface of the tree. A topical spray would not be effective for this situation. When an insect or fungus problem is under the bark, injections are a better course of action. Injections are an excellent alternative to spray pesticides, which is why we choose injections. On the plus side, there is little chance of pesticide or fungicide entering the groundwater supply or affecting nearby plants. This method of treatment provides more regulated control.

Fertilization

Although less direct, applying fertilizer is a possible solution for pest infestation. The soil will strengthen the tree’s natural defense system when it receives more nutrients. This strategy focuses on strengthening the tree to a healthy state so it can fight off the infestation on its own.

Controls

In some cases, purposeful controls can be used to remove the threat. Hand pruning small, individual trees can be an effective pesticide-free control. Trunk banding and trapping are other possible control methods.

Denver Homeowner Safety Strategies For Preventing IPS Beetle Attack

There are several practical ways that Denver homeowners can help stop the spread and attack of the IPS beetle. With a keen eye and thoughtful care, you can keep the IPS beetle off your property and out of your neighborhood. Here are the top recommendations from the Colorado State University Extension:

  • Do not injure trees when thinning. Injured trees attract IPS beetles. 
  • Do not stack recently cut green or unseasoned firewood near living trees. This is an ideal breeding place for IPS and beetles may attack and kill these trees. 
  • Do not place slash piles near living trees. Ips beetles will be attracted to slash piles. Slash should be hauled away as soon as possible. 
  • Debark or chip logs that are infested with IPS beetle larva as a suppression method. You can store debarked logs for firewood (but keep them away from living trees until they dry out.) 
  • If you have groups of IPS-infested trees that you remove, be sure to continue to monitor the living trees adjacent to the areas you treated. It is not uncommon to miss a few newly infested trees with your first sanitation treatment. Remove any additional beetle-infested trees as soon as possible. 

Doing Your Part To Help Denver Trees Stay Strong

The spread of the IPS beetle infestations is not a problem that will solve itself. Denver city officials and the forest service has issued a call for help. It takes community participation to make positive change, and without everyone doing their part the IPS beetle will continue to wreak havoc and destruction on the beautiful Denver landscape.

You aren’t alone in this effort! Teaming up with the experts is the best move you can make. Our skilled team has years of experience and an excellent track record for eradicating tree and plant infestation. Let’s work together to keep your trees and plants healthy and happy. 

The first step is scheduling your complimentary on-site inspection with one of our certified arborists!