Wasting time is wasting trees in the battle against the bugs.
That was the message from state and federal foresters Thursday night to about 150 people gathered at the Central States Fairgrounds 4-H building.
State forest health specialist John Ball, a forestry professor at South Dakota State University in Brookings, said it is a mistake to delay cutting and sanitizing infested pine trees. Bugs born in pine trees hit by beetles this year will mature and fly off next year to spread the infestation, he said.
"The problem is best managed early on," Ball said. "Every infested tree you leave means four to eight infested trees next year."
Landowners who thin their forest before the bugs arrive or cut and sanitize already infested trees can limit damage and help prevent the bugs from spreading, Ball said.
And this year, there are more resources than ever for landowners. Gov. Dennis Daugaard recently announced $1 million a year for three years in state funds were available for assistance and related work.
Private landowners can go online to www.beatthebeetle.com or call the South Dakota Department of Agriculture at 394-2395 or at 800-275-4954. Information also is available through the U.S. Forest Service by calling 716-2781.
Ball, U.S. Forest Service entomologist Kurt Allen and state forest health forester Brian Garbisch discussed techniques to fight the beetle on private land and the available assistance.
Ball and Allen also warned people not to rely on the Internet -- which is full of good and not-so-good information about mountain pine beetles, they said. Pine beetles can vary enough from region to region.
"You could be reading about a different kind of pine beetle," he said. "You might find something that doesn't fit for the Black Hills."
Ball and Allen said now is the time to begin surveying and removing trees identified as infested. The trees hit this year will still be green, but they are "zombie trees" that area already dying, Allen said.
If the trees aren't removed to be stripped of their bark and processed, they should be felled and cut into chunks or burned over the winter, well before the bugs hatched inside the bark emerge next summer and infect new trees.
Fall and winter are cutting time. But fall is not the time to spray to protect trees from beetles. Spraying should be done in the spring, before the beetles fly, the experts said.
People who promise that spraying this time of year can save infested trees are promising something unlikely to be delivered, they said.
Contact Kevin Woster at 394-8413 or email@example.com