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Goldspotted oak borer, destructive pest, discovered in Idyllwild forest

January 8, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
A tiny bug is causing big problems for California's oak trees.

The goldspotted oak borer, a beetle several times smaller than a penny, has already killed more than 20,000 oak trees in San Diego County. Now the Idyllwild forest in Riverside County is facing a significant threat from the invasive pest.

Resident Jerry Holldber said the goldspotted oak borer has been found in only one tree so far, but it should be a concern for all of Southern California in light of the devastation caused by the pest in San Diego County.

"They're all dead, they're gone," he said about the trees. "Where you used to able to take your family and sit under a tree and picnic and have fun with the kids, those days are gone. It's just open, barren land now."

Officials said they don't think the bug flew to the Idyllwild area, but rather someone must have been brought it up on a piece of firewood from San Diego County. That's why they're urging people not to bring firewood.

In addition to that, Vanessa Lopez, an entomologist at the University of California at Riverside, is working on a project to bring in other insects from Arizona, insects that can hopefully act as predators to the goldspotted oak borer.

"What we're hoping to do is go to Arizon and find those insects that are specialized to only feed on goldspotted oak borer and they're efficient at controlling the population," Lopez said.

That project could take years, so in Idyllwild, residents are planning a town hall meeting to talk about other ways to stop the destructive pest. They say the oak trees in their community, and perhaps all of Southern California, depend on it.