Colorado Springs pine trees infested with record number of moths

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Insects are causing a major problem for trees on the west side of Colorado Springs.

“The largest outbreak that we’ve seen from the whole front range in Colorado history,” said Jay Hein, Colorado Springs city forester.

More than 8,000 acres of city and private property are infested with tussock moths.

“It defoliates the tree and essentially after a few years of doing that, it can be fatal. Depending on how the tree is anyway, it could be fatal after the first season,” Hein said.

Colorado Springs city foresters said they see a larger outbreak of the moths and western spruce budworms every eight to 10 years, but not normally this large.

The outbreak could affect tourism to areas like Bear Creek, NORAD, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and more. It also increases certain risks, from fire to flash flooding.

“A lot of the risks that come with a forest that doesn’t have a full canopy of needles on it. You’ve got water issues, if there’s floods, it’s similar to the Waldo Canyon Fire where you’re going to get a lot more runoff because those trees aren’t retaining the water that’s coming from the sky,” Hein said.

Foresters said this type of outbreak will last two to three years before the insects begin to die on their own.

However, to ensure that happens quickly, city officials are working on a plan to bring the insect population back down to a sustainable level.

The city estimates the costs to treat the problem to be at $130,000. However, that will only cover city property.

The treatment is expected to begin in late May or early June, depending on the weather.

Treatment on the forests will also require a few road and park closures during that time.

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