The Mountain Pine Beetle is a tiny bark beetle found in the western forests of North America. The beetles spread a fungus which weakens and kills pine trees, staining the wood blue in the process. In recent years pine beetle populations have exploded and massive areas of forest have been killed off. Wood collected from these dead trees is now being sold as Blue Stain Wood or Denim Pine.
Pine beetle infestations are nothing new, but the current infestation we are experiencing is ten times the size of any previous outbreak. The beetles target weakened or fire damaged trees, and increased numbers of fire damaged trees have been attributed indirectly to climate change and the warming of the continent. Additionally, the only thing that culls the beetle is very cold weather. Milder winters in the past few years have helped these little guys thrive.
In the past the blue stains on the wood decreased the value of the lumber significantly in spite of the face that the quality of the wood is not compromised if the tree is cut down and milled within 8-10 months. A handful of people and companies are now pushing this blue stain as a "greener" alternative to healthy living trees and hoping to make it into a coveted and fashionable building supply. So keep an eye out for beetle-killed Blue Stain Pine or Denim Pine wood.
The blue stains add a rustic charm and were most notably used in the ceiling of the Richmond Skating Oval for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic games this past Winter. The Blue Stain pine can be used for pretty much any application that regular pine can.
(Images: 1. A Blue Stain Pine Kitchen, getboulder.com by Jerry Naro 2. Detail of Blue Stain Pine from thelumberroom.com 3. Richmond Skating Oval Ceiling from University of Buffalo 4. An image of a Pine Beetle devastated forest from the Government of British Columbia)