Bill Kilcoin has lived in the Black Hills since 1997. "Well its paradise," said Kilcoin. Three years ago he lost more than 100 trees to the Mountain Pine Beetle and he didn't see it coming. "I didn't know what was going on over the hill. I guess I was blind."
By the time he knew his land had been hit, it was too late. "They turn gold, the tops of the trees so that's you're first indication that these threes are dying," said Kilcoin.
Now he says if you have bug kill anywhere near your trees, you should keep a watchful eye. "You got to go out there and walk around and look at your tree trunks and usually at about eye level or a little bit above that you'll see pitch," said Kilcoin.
Pitch is usually a good indicator that your tree has been hit by bugs, but this year you might have to look down in the dirt to be sure.
"We haven't had a lot of rain this year so that's a little bit concerning because in dry years the trees don't produce much pitch," said U.S. Forest Service entomologist Kurt Allen.
If that's the case Allen says to check the dirt at the base of your trees for red sawdust left behind from beetles boring into the bark. But he also says this time of year is not the time to take action.
"If you go out and you find pitch tube number one on a tree and immediately cut that down there's still beetles going to be coming in the area and they're going to move to the next tree and the next tree. Really you're better off just letting that first tree get attacked and suck up as many beetles as you can right now," said Allen.
September and October are the best times to cut infected trees, but Kilcoin recommends spraying in June before the bugs move. He has sprayed his trees for the past two years and hasn't had a problem with Mountain Pine Beetles since. "Everybody needs to pony–up and we need to get something done about this or we're going to see the naked Black Hills," said Kilcoin.
Timing is everything when it comes to beating the beetles, and sometimes ponying–up means knowing the signs of infestation and waiting for the right time to strike.