Colorado Life Zones: Seasons, Plants, & Animals
Step 1: Choose One of the Life Zones or Choices Below
CO Life Zone Menu Bar
Colorado Life Zones General information Interactive Life Zone Diagram Colorado Life Zones Maps Semidesert Shrublands Life Zone West CO Shortgrass Prairie or Plains Life Zones Foothills Woodlands and Shrublands Montane Forests Life Zone Subalpine Life Zone Alpine Life Zone Riparian Life Zones
Montane Forests Life Zone: Seasons, Plants, & Animals
Step 2: Choose a Topic from the Montane Forests Life Zone & Scroll Down

Montane Forests Life Zone General Information

General Information

Montane Forests Life Zone Through the Seasons

Through the Seasons

Montane Forests Life Zone Mountain Pine Beetle

Mountain Pine Beetle

Montane Forests Life Zone Awesome Adaptations Awesome Adaptations

Montane Forests Life Zone Plants and Trees

Plants and Trees

Montane Forests Life Zone  Mammals

Mammals

Montane Forests Life Zone Birds

Birds

Montane Forests Life Zone Reptiles and Amphibians

Reptiles & Amphibians

Mountain Pine Beetle

    The dense older pine forests are prime habitats for mountain pine beetles. The beetle is native to the western United States (originally came from here). Mountain pine beetles dig their way into the trees. Along the way they cut off the important life lines that bring water and nutrients from the roots to the branches and  needles. The many beetle holes in the tree let deadly fungus into the tree which kills the tree even quicker. The beetle holes inside the tree may eventually cause the tree to die. The tiny beetles can reproduce quickly and can kill large areas of pine forest in a very short time. The beetles feed on ponderosa, lodgepole, scotch, limber, bristlecone, and pinyon pine trees. So you may see that some mountain pine beetle damage is in the foothills, montane forests, and subalpine life zones.

    In recent years, the western United States has had more warm and dry years, making it harder to for trees to get important water and nutrients throughout the year. Also, the warmer weather makes it easier for the beetles to survive over winter. Humans have also prevented many important smaller forest fires; thus, the beetles have had even larger areas of connected old and weakened old pine forests to feed on.  

     Once the trees die, the forests become an even greater danger. The forests are very dangerous to be in especially when it is windy. The wind may blow down many of the weak or dead trees smashing whatever they fall on. Forests fires can grow very fast and become super hot, burning thousands of acres of weak or dead forests quickly. The fires are super dangerous and will destroy anything in their path.

     The beetle-killed forests are already a serious problem in many parts of Colorado and other western states. It is almost impossible stopping the beetles once they have moved to a new area of forest. However dangerous and ugly the results are for humans, the beetles and fire play an important role in clearing out old and overgrown pine forests so new healthy forests may grow again.

1a. Enlarged picture of a pine beetle. Its about the size of a grain of rice. (Actual size about 5 mm long)

CSU Extension

Forest Service

Pine Beetle Hole

1b. Size of a beetle and its larvae compared to an adult human finger. Even though they are so small, together they can create large results.

Pine Beetle Size compared to an adult human finger
2a. The pine beetles dig tunnels into the tree and lay many eggs. Pine Beetle digging holes in a tree 2b. Soon the eggs turn to larvae and larvae turn to beetles. Then a lot more mountain pine beetles are ready to fly to more trees. Pine Beetles' tunnels
3. Sap or pitch oozes out of the trees to fill the holes. The beetle holes let deadly fungus inside the tree, and stop the flow of water, sap, and other nutrients to the needles. Infected Pine Tree 4. The green needles dry up and turn reddish-brown and eventually fall off. The beetle infested trees die. Dead Pine trees killed by the pine beetles
5. Large areas of pine forests can be killed by the mountain pine beetle in a short amount of time. Pine Beetle Aftermath 6. Many weak or dead trees can get blown down by the wind smashing anything they land on. Dead or weak trees blown down
7a. The many dead trees create a severe fire hazard. The fire can grow quickly burning thousands of acres in a few days or weeks. Forest Fire 7b. The fires can be very dangerous and destroy anything in its path. But in the end they are good because they let new healthy forests grow again. Large Fire of Beetle Killed Forest
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