This week's cover story, "The Beetle and the Damage Done," reports on the mounting toll of the worst bark-beetle epidemic in recorded history in Colorado and the various causes blamed for the infestation, from past fire suppression policies to climate change. Are the millions of dead trees claimed by the beetles since the outbreak began in the late 1990s -- and this summer's ferocious eruption of wildfires -- just part of a natural drought cycle or something else?
Experts can disagree about what it all means (and they do), but there's no mistaking the devastating impact of the beetle kill. Anyone who's spent time in the state's high country has seen some signs of the devastation -- and in lots of high-traffic areas, from Breckenridge to Grand Lake, they're impossible to miss.
For a truly up-close and personal look at the beetles at work, check out these photos and the accompanying slideshow, "Meet the beetles: How Colorado's forests are bugging out," courtesy of University of Colorado biology professor Jeff Mitton and photographer Mark Manger.
Mitton, an accomplished shutterbug in his own right, has been documenting the beetles' activities for decades, from close-ups of the bugs battling their hosts' efforts to pitch them out with resin to sweeping views of stands of dead trees along the Western Slope. Manger's photos are from a recent visit to Niwot Ridge west of Boulder, where Mitton and Scott Ferrenberg are studying the beetle's accelerated reproduction cycle in response to warmer temperatures.
Got your own photos and stories of favorite haunts transformed by the beetle epidemic? You can send images and comments to this e-mail; we'll round them up for a future post on the beetle mania and how it's affecting our beleaguered state.
See more photos on the next page. More from our Environment archive: "Plastic bags ban in Denver? Officials considering fees and more."
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