Keep your eye out for pine bark beetles

It has become an epidemic. If you look out your window you can see them everywhere now, rapidly dotting the once-green landscape with their bright orange colors.

For those of you who are confused on the subject, I’m talking about our dying pine trees, not Oregon State fans. If you haven’t noticed yet, take a look out the window and you’ll see mosaics of ponderosa pine trees throughout the valley that are dying as the result of an infestation by the California fivespined ips — a pine engraver beetle that has only recently been found in the area.

Pine beetles tend to attack trees that have been stressed due to drought or wildfire; however, even the ice storm of 2012 and the high winds of the Gorge can weaken trees enough to make them susceptible to infestation. The beetle — which typically attacks the tops of pines where the bark is at its thinnest — bores into the tree and lays eggs that turn into larvae which eventually feed on the living tissue beneath the bark. Within a month of primary infection, a tree will begin to show signs of “top kill:” needle discoloration at the top of the tree that works its way down the stem.

Other signs of infection include beetle bore holes, orange dust at the base of the tree and large amounts of pitch exuding from the bark and bore holes. Healthy stands of trees can withstand the beetle; however, in conditions of stress, tree mortality can be high.

So, what can you do? The most important thing to consider when faced with infection by the CFI is proper tree care and timing. It may be tempting to immediately prune the infected branches; however, this can further weaken the tree during the dry months and provide further fodder for beetles in flight looking for a host.

Pruning and removal of infected trees should be postponed and only occur from mid-October to January, when beetles are dormant and tree stress is low. During the fall and winter months when it is appropriate to prune infected trees, trimmings and slash should be chipped or burned to reduce food for future broods, and bark removed from any material intended for firewood.

While October may seem like a long way off to care for your trees, there are still things that you can do now to help reduce the summer stress on your trees. Watering your trees two to three times per month for an hour during the hottest part of the summer will significantly reduce stress levels and make them more resilient to both the fivespined ips and fire. When watering, be sure to water at least 3 feet away from the trunks of established trees, using a soaker house or bubbler to moisten 2-3 feet below the surface of the soil.

For further questions on the California fivespined ips and how to keep your home safe this fire season, contact the Hood River Fire Services Wildfire Prevention Hotline at 541-436-0655 or


Jon Gehrig is the wildfire prevention coordinator for Hood River County Fire Services.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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