Beetle Kill 2009: To spray or not to spray |

Beetle Kill 2009: To spray or not to spray

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County, Colorado

“To spray, or not to spray” has become a debate among landowners throughout Grand County well into the throes of the pine beetle epidemic.

County residents have witnessed a surge in chemical spray use, deemed among foresters the only proven effective method in saving trees.

“There are some very valid concerns. There’s been a lot of spraying in a relatively small geographic area,” said Colorado State Forester Ron Cousineau, based in Granby. “And there’s been some abuse with that spray.”

Many county residents, as well as foresters, have growing concerns about the health and environmental hazards that could be associated with so many residents subscribing to the use of chemicals.

In response, forest officials are advising landowners that spraying should be limited only to “select” trees. It’s not to be used on every tree of one’s acreage, Cousineau said.

The reality is, landowners should concede that most trees eventually succumb to this natural phenomena.

Although there continues to be an active beetle population, state foresters are noticing from field observations that there has been a marked decrease in populations, according to Cousineau.

Spraying may become less important as the epidemic continues. But for the few trees landowners are committed to saving, they may need to be sprayed annually over the next two to three years.

“Of, course, we’ll reevaluate that every year,” Cousineau said.

Besides the preventive measures taken with chemicals labeled for bark beetle use, up until now, there are no known “cures.”

Beetle repellent packets are among products foresters have deemed ineffective.

“I’m not saying that it doesn’t work,” Cousineau said, “but it hasn’t proven itself to be effective in this current situation we’re dealing with in Grand County.”

As always, property owners who opt to hire individuals to spray trees should be aware that tree sprayers must be licensed in the state of Colorado, mandated by federal and state laws.

Such licensure ensures that sprayers understand the laws behind chemical uses and the consequences when those laws are not followed. Those who opt to spray their own trees should be well-educated, always erring on the side of caution and adhering fully to laws.

According to the Colorado Department of Agriculture, anyone who uses chemical sprays, including homeowners, are subject to regulation under the Pesticide Applicators Act. Witnesses to or victims of misapplications may report them to the department.

Sprayers should especially be cognizant of spray distances from water sources, overspray and should cease any spraying once the beetles have flown.

Before hiring to spray pesticides, property owners should ask for proof of licensure or call the Colorado Department of Agriculture at 970-303-4100 to find out the licensure status of a person or company.