Bark beetles in the Inyo?

One of our website readers said while hiking up the Kearsarge Pass trail he noted that nearly every Red Fir and White Fir had entire limbs of dead needles, the characteristic red color of bark-beetle infestation. Does the Eastern Sierra now have a bark beetle problem? We checked with the Forest Service. Their response was inconclusive.

Forester Scott Kusumoto, by way of Public Information Officer Nancy Upham, said that it is the time of year when even confiers begin shedding their no longer needed needles. He said that the trees our reader observed “could possibly have been under attack from bark beetles if they did see some streaming of pitch or sap on the tree.” The report we got said there was pitch and sap and seeming beetle exit holes on some of the trees.

The Forester said he and others “might have to see for ourselves to determine.” That is all that was available on bark beetles in Inyo National Forest. Nationwide, last week a federal report was issued by the Forest Service to say that fewer trees are dying in the nation’s forests and that bark beetle damage in the West is slowing down.

That official report says that the number of dead trees on 750 million acres of public and private forests across America is on the decline for the second straight year with most of the reductions seen in western states where bark beetles have infested millions of trees, according to the Forest Service report.

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said, “Native insects and diseases run in cycles, and right now we are grateful the trend is downward.” Tidwell also said, “While the news is good, we are certain to continue to face challenges, such as the effects of climate change and the introduction of invasive species.”



15 Responses to Bark beetles in the Inyo?

  1. esfotoguy September 25, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

    the whole top of June mountain has been infested for the last decade at least……is this news?

  2. JeanGenie September 25, 2012 at 5:50 pm #

    What I’d like to know is who are the people that are putting rocks in the middle of all the trails, Kearsarge included? I have nearly hurt myself numerous times from these loose rocks placed on trails, they are in lines of 3 to 5 rocks or sometimes triangle patterns. Whoever is doing this you should knock it off. I’ve been hiking here for 30 years and never seen anything like it.

    • Mammothite September 25, 2012 at 7:14 pm #

      Sounds like Friends of the Inyo. They are experts at blocking roads and trails that people use to enjoy nature.

      • James Wilson September 25, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

        Friends of the Inyo has spent many hours this summer helping to maintain and keep open trails in our area. Go to for some truth. We with partners worked to remove logs in the Red’s Meadow blowdown. Go for a walk and see the work. And if you are bold enough use your own name.

        • JeanGenie September 26, 2012 at 11:14 am #

          Haven’t made Pine Creek this year, but Bishop Creek, Rock Creek, and all the trails out of Onion Valley, plus a few dirt roads around Independence.

        • Joann Lijek September 26, 2012 at 11:23 am #

          Mr. Wilson,
          I too have suspected Friends of the Inyo of putting rocks on the trails, because it seems like a misguided attempt at trail maintenence. I sent an Email to FOI, asking about a practice they call “rocking” on their website, and never recieved a response. If it were only one person, they sure would have to be busy.

          This is so disturbing to me that I think I’ll start taking photos and make myself a tool to remove rocks without kicking them or bending over. I’m tired of having to hitch up to avoid rolly, loose rocks placed exactly where step.

          Does anyone have an explanation? How about those that are doing this, come out with your real name and an explanation. Do you actually want someone to get hurt?

          • James Wilson September 27, 2012 at 8:27 am #

            When on the FOI website rocking means removing the ankle breaker rocks from the trail. When we do trail work the crew member will remove these rocks from the trail. I have spent about 30 days in the Sierra backcountry this year hiking and backpacking and have seen no rocks that seemed deliberately placed to impede walking. Most of the trails are in decent shape which is a tribute to the agencies and the volunteers that maintain them. This includes the Forest Service, the National Park Service, Friends of the Inyo, Back Country Horsemen, and the Pacific Crest Trail Association among others. There are trails that are in marginal shape, Piute Creek above the Piute bridge comes to mind, but most are decent or better. If folks find trails that are
            dangerous contact the appropriate agency. Safe trails are important.

    • Sierra Gal September 26, 2012 at 5:25 am #

      If your hiking up in Pine Creek…there are some local climbers putting up new routes about an hours hike up the trail. In an effort to clean up their route, they are knocking rocks onto the trail regardless of hikers and horses below.

      • Joann Lijek September 26, 2012 at 11:26 am #

        Sierra Gal,
        The rocks I’m talking about are in patterns that are not random, and they are in fact, sometimes in spots on the trail where they would have to be carried from some distance and placed there.

        • Sierra Gal September 26, 2012 at 4:31 pm #

          How odd…I was just on the Kearsarge Pass trail on Saturday and did not a see a single intentionally placed rock on the trail all the way to Glen Pass. I was also in Rock Creek on Friday and Bishop Creek on Sunday and saw no intentionally placed rocks on the trail. I get out A LOT and have only seen the rocks up in Pine Creek. Are you talking about meadow restoration areas?…because those are on the trail…for a reason.

          • Joann Lijek September 27, 2012 at 10:25 am #

            Sierra Gal,
            I’ve been cleaning rocks off the Kearsarge trail all summer, maybe thats why you didn’t see any. You must not be paying attention if you hike a lot and have not noticed this new phenomenon.
            And to Mr. Wilson, I passed you on Little Lakes trail on 9-17, where there were oodles of these rocks. This trail is wide however, so they aren’t as noticable.
            Like I said, I’m about ready to start taking pictures.
            I’ve been hiking these mountains since 1984 and have not seen anything like it before, its not meadow restoration or markers, what it is is annoying. Maybe when you hike you just step around without realizing that some of those rocks don’t belong there, take a closer look.

  3. esfotoguy September 26, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

    whenever I see that, its usually someone giving directions to friends that are arriving at the trail later. You said it was triangle shaped, an arrow?……I see logs in arrow shapes all the time. Sad thing is they dont remove them when the adventure is over…..the trails that have rock and logs as barriers are usually ‘unofficial’ trails so the forest service is making an effort to return the area to its original state……..go out to the scenic loop, there used to be a ‘trail’ that mtb’ers and motorbike riders used for yrs….problem is, they were created by the bikers and not the forest circus, so they’ve been covered up/removed. Im sure in the near future there will be a parallel trail there.

  4. salblaster September 30, 2012 at 2:00 pm #

    i’ve seen rocks placed on trails before where they were diverting rain and snow melt off the trail, usualy slanted across the trail and buried in the dirt with just a few inchs sticking above ground, usualy made up of 5 or more football sized rocks. it could be these runoff barriers being kicked out by foot and hoof traffic. but it could be natural erosion, i kinda doubt theres something sinister going on here, but you never know theres mean spirited people all over the planet.

  5. Fred Richter October 1, 2012 at 11:29 am #

    Let’s get back to the original story now. Many people to see dead foliage and assume a specific “cause of death.” Needles can turn red for a multitude of reasons, not just bark beetles. The red is caused by the lack of photosynthesis, presence of water and the amount of oils or resin left in it. After about two years the resin evaporates and the needles turn a light brown and fall from the branch more easily. Some of the reasons this happens are insects, disease, mechanical injury, drought and fire. Another very infrequent cause is the presence of high concentrations of carbon dioxide, found in such places as Horseshoe Lake and near volcanic features in the Cascades and the Yellowstone area.

    There are numerous of diseases and insects that will cause mortality. Most diseases and insects attack specific species or genera (plural of genus) of trees. ‘Each species of tree may have several of these that will cause death. All will eventually cause a tree to die, with the exception of mistletoe, and the result is dead needles that appear red or orange.

    The standing trees located on both sides of U.S. 395 look about the same as the trees killed at Horseshoe, the former by a fire in 2007 and the latter by carbon dioxide. An untrained eye cannot distinguish between the causes for the mortality.

    When I was working in the Horseshoe Lake area after carbon dioxide kill in 1990 many people would approach me and ask if “the beetle” had killed all the trees. In lesser numbers some would ask if a fire had burned in the area. Some would tell me that “the beetle” killed the trees and that I was incorrect about the carbon dioxide being the catalyst. Their reasoning is that it looked just like another forested area that actually experienced beetle mortality.

    My answer to these folks was to say, “if you go to a funeral home and pull all the drawers of the refrigeration units open the people will all look pretty much the same, but they all got there for different reasons.” This is why a forester cannot tell you how a tree died when the only information available is the appearance of red or orange needles.

    • Fred Richter October 1, 2012 at 11:31 am #

      I should have signed off as:

      Fred Richter
      U.S. Forest Service, Retired


Leave a Reply