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drichards on 2009-08-24From Colorado to Washington state, an unprecedented, years-long epidemic of mountain pine beetle has killed 2.6 million hectares (6.5 million acres) of forest. The insect has struck even more devastatingly to the north, in British Columbia, where clouds of beetles have laid waste to 14 million hectares (35 million acres) — twice the area of Ireland. It is expected to kill 80 percent of the Canadian province's lodgepole pines before it's finished.
Farther north, in the Yukon, the pine beetle isn't endemic — yet. Here it's the spruce bark beetle that has eaten its way through 400,000 hectares (1 million acres) of woodland, and even more in neighboring Alaska, in a 15-year-old epidemic unmatched in its longevity and extent.