Del Mar council discusses ways to beat bark beetles

Although Del Mar has been beating bark beetles on public property, city officials are concerned that beetle-infested trees on private property could make it more difficult to contain infestations.

From education to enforcement programs, the Del Mar City Council on March 7 discussed new ways to keep the bugs at bay.

“The bark beetles are here,” said Assistant City Manager Mark Delin. “They’re damaging our local Torrey pines. They’ve been hitting the Torrey Pines Reserve for some time.”

Torrey pines are a rare and protected type of pine tree that grows primarily along the coastal bluffs in San Diego County just south of Del Mar. Of the 4,600 Torrey pines at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, bark beetles have impacted 150, 100 of which have been removed, Delin said.

After loosing five Torrey pines to bark beetle infestation in the Anderson Canyon area, the city implemented a beetle-trapping program last year.

The program involves setting traps and watering drought-stressed trees. Simulated beetle pheromones lure beetles out of the trees and into the traps.

Del Mar installed a trap in March 2015 at Anderson Canyon and another trap at Seagrove Park in May 2015. Each cluster of three traps costs $250. The pheromone lures cost $115 and are replaced every two to three months.

The program has successfully protected trees on public property.

To date, the traps have captured nearly 50,000 beetles — 39,000 beetles from Anderson Canyon and 8,300 from Seagrove Park.

“We haven’t had any trees that have been affected since those traps have been out in that general area,” said City Manager Scott Huth. “It has been a positive program — at least in two of our park areas.”

Because the city does not monitor trees on private property, however, city staff is concerned that infested trees that are left untreated on private land could spread to Torrey pines and other trees on public property.

To continue the battle against the bark beetle, council members agreed that an educational program for residents would be beneficial, so they could learn how to better identify infestations and receive information on preventative programs. The city will provide residents information about bark beetles on the city’s website and through email blasts and water bill inserts.

Some council members said they might consider installing additional traps. Huth said staff would study the possibility of adding traps on other city property.

The council also directed staff to draft an ordinance that would allow the city to remove dead or infested trees if property owners do not comply with requests to treat them or remove them.

Councilman Don Mosier said the city should only become involved as a “last measure.”

“It’s not something I envision the city having to do very often, but I would like to have that available as a resource,” Mosier said.

“To the extent that the beetles get out of hand, we probably would want something on the books that we can immediately do something about it,” Councilman Al Corti agreed.

Before moving forward with a new ordinance, Deputy Mayor Terry Sinnott said he would like to see the outcome of other methods, such as public education.

“I would support an education program, let people know what to look for,” Sinnott said. “I would rather wait on an enforcement leg until we see how the voluntary educational program goes.”