How-to Turn Colorado Beetle Kill Pine Logs to Lumber

By: Nancy Gex Klifman, co-owner, Mountain Time Chairs, Inc.

Whether you know much about the forest or not, you’ve probably heard about the Mountain Pine Beetle and the negative effect it has had our woodlands throughout North America; more specifically its’ devastation to the forest here in Colorado. In this article we will take a close look at the Mountain Pine Beetle. We will also examine some creative uses a few local Colorado artisans and furniture makers have come up with for this Colorado Beetle Kill Pine. How to turn Colorado beetle kill pine logs to lumber.

The Mountain pine beetle is an insect native to the forests of western North America and is also known as the Black Hills beetle or the Rocky Mountain pine beetle.

In normal conditions Mountain pine beetles (MPB) are the most important insect pest of Colorado’s pine forests. MPB often kill large numbers of trees annually during outbreaks. Typically these are trees that are not growing vigorously due to old age, crowding, poor growing conditions, drought, or fire. They are trees that need to be thinned out.

The Challenge

Since the current outbreak of Pine Beetle infestation first begin in 1997, the Colorado Pine beetle has wiped-out over 1.1 million acres of Colorado pine forest. To put this in perspective, this devastation equals approximately the size of the State of Rhode Island.

As one drives the I-70 corridor west from Denver the issues becomes apparent. Hundreds of thousands of trees are standing dead in our forests. The forests are a fire hazard. Some Colorado mountain roads and trails have even been forced to close due to the increased risk of falling timber. The Mountain Pine Beetle has forever changed the forests of Colorado.

After ravaging 22 million acres of pine trees in Canada over the last 12 years, the rice-sized insects have been feasting their way southward. Their favorite meal: the majestic lodgepole pine, which makes up 8 percent of Colorado’s 22 million acres of forests.  ~Jim Moscu, Newsweek “Beetlemania”

A Few Facts

  • The Mountain Pine Beetle has decimated over 70 % of Lodge Pole Pine trees in Colorado.
  • The beetle first attacks crowded, unhealthy trees over 80 years old.
  • Freezing is a natural control of the Mountain Pine Beetle, but a sustained temperature below -40 is necessary to kill the insects.
  • The typical life cycle of a Mountain Pine Beetle is one year beginning as an egg, hatching as a larva which becomes a pupa and then an adult but this has changed due to a lack of freezing cold weather.
  • Infested wood can transfer the beetles to healthy trees.
  • There are no approved chemicals for treating infested trees.
  • Exposing the beetles and their larva to light kills living insects.

Best Practice Solution

With all of these facts under your belt you wonder how we small furniture makers and our customers can help solve the beetle kill problem? Increasing diversity of pine species, removing unhealthy trees, thus promoting healthy growth, are the best defenses against ongoing beetle attacks. Can we turn this “problem” into an economic boost for our state? It is time for a simple, immediate solution, and some of us are already well on our way to implementing that solution!

What can we find that is positive about the Mountain Pine beetle kills in Colorado? How has the beetle proven to be a plus to those of us who build and use rustic furnishings?

Each Mountain Pine Beetle has tiny, little grooves on their bodies called mycangium. These grooves carry the bluestain fungus. As the beetles move under the bark they rub off the bluestain fungus. When the fungus grows, it grows toward the sapwood, or the inside of the tree. The fungi do not weaken the wood, but give it an artistic stain that many people believe make it more beautiful.

Some of the most stunning furniture, flooring, paneling and other wood products in our country are being manufactured from Colorado beetle kill pine.

When woodworkers harvest the infested standing or fallen dead trees and bring them to our wood shops, we make use of these beautiful byproducts of the Mountain Pine beetle’s life cycle. As we remove the logs from the forests we isolate them from living trees that could become infested.

When we use a drawknife to scrape away the bark and expose the “blue” beetle kill wood, we effectively remove the Mountain Pine Beetle’s cover and kill any insects that may remain alive.

We have a problem in our state that needs a “now” solution. We woodworkers are solving the problem, one infested log at a time.

You can learn more about many Colorado businesses who are doing something about this issue by checking out the Beetle Kill Trade Association’s website at: Beetle Kill Trade Association.

And once you have watched this video about how-to turn Colorado beetle kill pine logs to lumber, be sure to check out this 100% hand made beetlekill lodgepole pine furniture.

Here at Log Furniture How To [dot] com we support woodworkers in their effort to clean up our forests. If you have found uses for what some consider waste, we want to hear from you.

We are in full support of all woodworkers currently harvesting and using BKP and we would like to feature your work on this Website. If you are or know anyone who would like to be featured here on Log Furniture How To [dot] com, contact support[at]


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