Bark Beetle - Fire Association in the Greater Yellowstone Area

Gene D. Ammon

This item was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


The large forest fires in and around Yellowstone National Park in 1988 bring up many ecological questions, including the role of bark beetles. Bark beetles may contribute to fuel buildup over the years preceding a fire, resulting in stand replacement fires. Fire is important to the survival of seral tree species and bark beetles that reproduce in them. Without fire, seral species are ultimately replaced by climax species. Following fire, bark- and wood-boring beetles respond to fire-injured trees. Because of synchrony of the fires and life cycles of the beetles, beetle infestation in 1988 was not observed in fire-injured trees. However, endemic populations of beetles, upon emergence in 1989, infested large numbers of fire-injured trees. Of the trees examined in each species, 28 to 65 percent were infested by bark beetles: Pinus contorta (28 percent) by Ips pini; Pseudotsuga menziesii (32 percent) by Dendroctonus pseudotsugae; Picee engelmannii (65 percent) by Dendroctonus rufipennia; and and Abies lasiocarpa (35 percent) by Buprestidae and Cerambycidac. Most trees infested by bark beetles had 50 percent or more of their basal circumference killed by fire. Bark beetle populations probably will increase in the remaining fire-injured trees.