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Tiny Beetle Could Create Big Trouble During Wildfire Season

Audio

Aired 6/1/10

Fire officials in San Diego County will have an extra challenge this wildfire season. A beetle infestation in the county has killed more than 20,000 oak trees.

— Fire officials in San Diego County will have an extra challenge this wildfire season. A beetle infestation in the county has killed more than 20,000 oak trees.

The gold-spotted oak borer beetle. The insect bores into an oak and lays it eggs. When they hatch the larvae eat the tree and eventually kill it. The beetles have killed more than 20,000 oak trees in San Diego County.
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Above: The gold-spotted oak borer beetle. The insect bores into an oak and lays it eggs. When they hatch the larvae eat the tree and eventually kill it. The beetles have killed more than 20,000 oak trees in San Diego County.

A new report from the U.S. Forest Service says the beetle likely came here in a bundle of firewood from either Arizona or Mexico. It was first discovered in San Diego County in 2004.

Now, fire officials are worried about the fire danger posed by the thousands of oak trees the beetle has killed throughout the county.

Howard Windsor is the Cal Fire Unit Chief for San Diego. He said agencies are evaluating the situation.

"We've formed a steering committee that has all of the land management agencies, all of the stakeholders that are involved," he said. "We're getting a lot of awareness at the state and federal level with the issue.

The beetle has spread from San Diego's backcountry to areas near the coast. So far it hasn't made its way north into other counties. But officials said it likely will.

The insect bores into an oak and lays it eggs. When they hatch, the larvae eat the tree and eventually kill it.

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