• Grand Palace

    Great Basin

    National Park Nevada

There are park alerts in effect.
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  • Telephones not working at Great Basin National Park

    The park is experiencing an outage with all incoming and outgoing telephone calls. We hope to resolve this issue soon.

  • Road Work at Great Basin National Park

    Road work will create delays on the main park road going up to Lehman Caves Visitor Center and Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive. Wheeler Peak Campground will close at noon on September 2nd and portions of the Scenic Drive. Click more for details. Updated 8/25/14 More »

  • Snake Creek Road and Campsites Closed

    The Snake Creek Road will be closed from the park boundary into the park to begin work on campsites, trails and restroom improvements. Work will continue until snow closes the project. Work will resume in Spring 2015.

Bark Beetles

fir engraver beetle tracks

Fir engraver beetles leave trails beneath the bark of living and dead conifers.

Alana Dimmick

Bark beetles are one of the 6000 species of beetle found in the subfamily Scolytinae. They are so named because they live in, feed on, and reproduce in the inner bark of dead and living trees. A few species attack and kill live trees, but most reside in dead, weakened, or dying hosts.

The tiny insects are brownish or black and range between six and eight millimeters long. They fly in in large, synchronized groups that arrive at a tree and overwhelm it with their large numbers. Bark beetles are known to emit pheromones, a chemical, that attracts other beetles to target trees.

Healthy trees may put up defenses by producing resin or latex that can contain a number of insecticidal and fungicidal compounds that can kill or injure the attacking insects. Others can be immobilized, or suffocated, by the sticky fluids.

Bark beetles have an important ecological role. They can help renew forests by killing old trees, and aid in the decomposition of dead wood. But when certain conditions exist that leave large numbers of conifers susceptible, outbreaks can occur. The western United States has been under drought conditions for many years, weakening conifers and leaving them susceptible to beetles. Under outbreak conditions, sheer numbers can overwhelm even the best defenses of healthly trees.

The invasion itself does not kill the tree. The tree eventually dies from a fungus that is introduced and spread by the beetles which clog's the tree's water transport systems.

Affected Areas in the Park
The work of the fir engraver beetle, one species of bark beetle, is evident in Great Basin National Park. This species makes its home specifically in white fir and pinyon pine trees. Two park watersheds, Baker Creek and Strawberry Creek, have been noticeably affected, as evidenced by the standing, dead white firs.

Did You Know?

Sagebrush

The Sagebrush, a very common resident of Great Basin National Park, is well adapted to the area. The Big Sagebrush root system can extend as much as 90 feet in circumference. This adaptation allows the plant to collect as much water as possible during infrequent rains.