Spruce Spider Mites Attack Trees Near Council

Friday July 22, 2022

Council, ID - Firewood cutters beware when cutting wood in the Council, Idaho area. Trees that may appear dead may not be and should not be cut unless you’re absolutely certain the tree is dead. 

Hundreds of acres of healthy Douglas-fir trees on endowment trust land managed by Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) have been attacked by spruce spider mites which are part of the spider and tick family. The needles on the trees turn brown and drop off and the tree can become coated with a silky web. Spruce spider mites are most active in the spring and fall, during cooler conditions.

Previous outbreaks in other areas of the state did not cause log-term issues or significant tree deaths, so the affected trees near Council should recover. The damaged and dropped needles won’t grow back, but the branch tips can still put on healthy new growth in coming years.

“While firewood cutting is allowed by permit for personal use in this area there is a penalty if someone cuts down a live tree on state or endowment land,” said Idaho State Forester Craig Foss. “Idaho law allows IDL to collect three times the value of stumpage rate had that tree been sold as a sawlog.”

The penalty is defined in statute under Idaho Code Title § 6-211.

“Endowment timber is an important income source for the beneficiaries made up primarily of public schools,” he added. “Each tree could cost someone cutting firewood hundreds dollars if the triple penalty is applied.”

Timber harvests on endowment land brought in more than $87 million dollars in revenue last year.

Idaho endowment trust land is unique. The lands were given to the state by Congress at statehood, creating a legal trust for the sole purpose of financially supporting beneficiaries, primarily public schools. Idaho’s Constitution requires the land must be used to generate the maximum financial return to the beneficiary to which it belongs. Distributions to all endowments was more than $88 million last year.

For those who suspect spruce spider mites are affecting trees near your home, mite populations can be knocked back by spraying trees with a strong jet of water and providing additional watering to alleviate tree stress.