You are here

Barbara J. Bentz

Research Entomologist

Research Entomologist

860 North 1200 East
Logan, UT 84321
Contact Barbara J. Bentz

Current Research

My current research is focused on understanding temperature response and adaptations of bark beetles and associated communities for increased understanding of population outbreaks in a changing climate. This research includes the role of host trees and the environment in population outbreak dynamics, and incorporating physiological information into  mechanistic models of bark beetle temperature response for managing forest ecosystems in a changing climate. I also research the role of bark beetles in post-fire environments.

Research Interests

My research interests are numerous. Among the highlights are biology, ecology, management of bark beetles, physiological aspects of bark beetle response to temperature, modeling climate change influences on bark beetle populations, and fire and bark beetle interactions.

Past Research

Temperature dependence of bark beetles; using pheromones to manage bark beetle populations; use of remote sensing for detecting bark beetle-caused tree mortality.

Why This Research is Important

Bark beetles have caused more tree mortality in western North America forest ecosystems over the past 20 years than wildfire. It is imperative to understand how rising temperature and decreasing precipitation will influence bark beetle-caused tree mortality in the future, including interactions with other disturbances.


  • Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, Ph.D., Entomology, 1991
  • University of Idaho, Moscow, M.S., Forestry and Entomology, 1984
  • Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, TX, B.S., Forestry and Biology, 1981
  • Professional Experience

    Project Leader, Entomologist, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Logan UT
    1999 to present

    Research Entomologist, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Logan UT
    1991 to present

    Featured Publications


    Cansler, C. Alina; Hood, Sharon M.; Varner, J. Morgan; van Mantgem, Phillip J.; Agne, Michelle C.; Andrus, Robert A.; Ayres, Matthew P.; Ayres, Bruce D.; Bakker, Jonathan D.; Battaglia, Mike A.; Bentz, Barbara J.; Breece, Carolyn R.; Brown, James K.; Cluck, Daniel R.; Coleman, Tom W.; Corace, R. Gregory; Covington, W. Wallace; Cram, Douglas S.; Cronan, James B.; Crouse, Joseph E.; Das, Adrian J.; Davis, Ryan S.; Dickinson, Darci M.; Fitzgerald, Stephen A.; Fulé, Peter Z.; Ganio, Lisa M.; Grayson, Lindsay M.; Halpern, Charles B.; Hanula, Jim L.; Harvey, Brian J.; Kevin Hiers, J.; Huffman, David W.; Keifer, MaryBeth; Keyser, Tara L.; Kobziar, Leda N.; Kolb, Thomas E.; Kolden, Crystal A.; Kopper, Karen E.; Kreitler, Jason R.; Kreye, Jesse K.; Latimer, Andrew M.; Lerch, Andrew; Lombardero, Maria J.; McDaniel, Virginia L.; McHugh, Charles W.; McMillin, Joel D.; Moghaddas, Jason J.; O’Brien, Joseph J.; Perrakis, Daniel D. B.; Peterson, David W.; Prichard, Susan J.; Progar, Robert A.; Raffa, Kenneth F.; Reinhardt, Elizabeth D.; Restaino, Joseph C.; Roccaforte, John P.; Rogers, Brendan M.; Ryan, Kevin C.; Safford, Hugh D.; Santoro, Alyson E.; Shearman, Timothy M.; Shumate, Alice M.; Sieg, Carolyn H.; Smith, Sheri L.; Smith, Rebecca J.; Stephenson, Nathan L.; Stuever, Mary; Stevens, Jens T.; Stoddard, Michael T.; Thies, Walter G.; Vaillant, Nicole M.; Weiss, Shelby A.; Westlind, Douglas J.; Woolley, Travis J.; Wright, Micah C., 2020. The Fire and Tree Mortality Database, for empirical modeling of individual tree mortality after fire
    Hansen, Matt; Johnson, Morris; Bentz, Barbara J.; Vandygriff, James C.; Munson, A. Steven, 2019. Chapter 14: Impact of Bark Beetle Infestation on Fuel Loads and Fire Behavior in “Old-Stage” Southwestern Ponderosa Pine (Project INT-EM-F-12-02)
    McManis, Anne E.; Powell, James A.; Bentz, Barbara J., 2019. Modeling mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) oviposition
    Loehman, Rachel A.; Bentz, Barbara J.; DeNitto, Gregg A.; Keane II, Robert E.; Manning, Mary E.; Duncan, Jacob P.; Egan, Joel M.; Jackson, Marcus B.; Kegley, Sandra; Lockman, I. Blakey; Pearson, Dean E.; Powell, James A.; Shelly, Steve; Steed, Brytten E.; Zambino, Paul J., 2018. Effects of climate change on ecological disturbance in the Northern Rockies Region [Chapter 8]
    Malesky, Danielle M.; Bentz, Barbara J.; Brown, Gary R.; Brunelle, Andrea R.; Buffington, John M.; Chappell, Linda M.; ; Guyon, John C. II; Jorgensen, Carl L.; Loehman, Rachel A.; Lowrey, Laura L.; Lynch, Ann M.; Matyjasik, Marek; McMillin, Joel D.; Mercado, Javier E.; Morris, Jesse L.; Negron, Jose; Padgett, Wayne G.; Progar, Robert A.; Randall, Carol B., 2018. Effects of climate change on ecological disturbances [Chapter 8]
    Marini, Lorenzo; Okland, Bjorn; Jonsson, Anna Maria; Bentz, Barbara J.; Carroll, Allan; Forster, Beat; Gregoire, Jean-Claude; Hurling, Rainer; Nageleisen, Louis Michel; Netherer, Sigrid; Ravn, Hans Peter; Weed, Aaron; Schroeder, Martin, 2017. Climate drivers of bark beetle outbreak dynamics in Norway spruce forests
    Schebeck, Martin; Hansen, E. Matthew; Schopf, Axel; Ragland, Gregory J.; Stauffer, Christian; Bentz, Barbara J., 2017. Diapause and overwintering of two spruce bark beetle species
    Krivan, Vlastimil; Lewis, Mark; Bentz, Barbara J.; Bewick, Sharon; Lenhart, Suzanne M.; Liebhold, Andrew, 2016. A dynamical model for bark beetle outbreaks
    Bentz, Barbara J.; Vandygriff, James C.; Jensen, Camille; Coleman, Tom; Maloney, Patricia; Smith, Sheri; Grady, Amanda; Schen-Langenheim, Greta, 2016. Chapter 15: Monitoring Mountain Pine Beetle Life Cycle Timing and Phloem Temperatures at Multiple Elevations and Latitudes in California(Project WC-EM-09-02)
    Bentz, Barbara J.; Hood, Sharon M.; Hansen, Matt; Vandygriff, James C.; Mock, Karen E., 2016. Defense traits in the long-lived Great Basin bristlecone pine and resistance to the native herbivore mountain pine beetle
    Ramsfield, T. D.; Bentz, Barbara J.; Faccoli, M.; Jactel, H.; Brockerhoff, E. G., 2016. Forest health in a changing world: Effects of globalization and climate change on forest insect and pathogen impacts
    Kolb, Thomas E.; Fettig, Christopher J.; Bentz, Barbara J.; Stewart, Jane E.; Weed, Aaron S.; Hicke, Jeffrey A.; Ayres, Matthew P., 2016. Forest insect and fungal pathogen responses to drought [Chapter 6]
    Lerch, Andrew P.; Pfammatter, Jesse A.; Bentz, Barbara J.; Raffa, Kenneth F., 2016. Mountain pine beetle dynamics and reproductive success in post-fire lodgepole and ponderosa pine forests in northeastern Utah
    Kolb, Thomas E.; Fettig, Chris; Ayres, Matthew P.; Bentz, Barbara J.; Hicke, Jeffrey A.; Mathiasen, Robert; Stewart, Jane E.; Weed, Aaron S., 2016. Observed and anticipated impacts of drought on forest insects and diseases in the United States
    Hansen, E. Matthew; Johnson, Morris C.; Bentz, Barbara J.; Vandygriff, James C.; Munson, A. Steven., 2015. Fuel loads and simulated fire behavior in "old-stage" beetle-infested ponderosa pine of the Colorado Plateau
    Weed, Aaron S.; Bentz, Barbara J.; Ayres, Matthew P.; Holmes, Thomas P., 2015. Geographically variable response of Dendroctonus ponderosae to winter warming in the western United States
    Vandygriff, J. C.; Hansen, E.; Bentz, Barbara J.; Allen, K. K.; Amman, G. D.; Rasmussen, L. A., 2015. Long-term efficacy of diameter-limit cutting to reduce mountain pine beetle-caused tree mortality in a lodgepole pine forest
    Anderegg, William R. L.; Hicke, Jeffrey A.; Fisher, Rosie A.; Allen, Craig D.; Aukema, Juliann; Bentz, Barbara J.; Hood, Sharon; Lichstein, Jeremy W.; Macalady, Alison K.; McDowell, Nate; Pan, Yude; Raffa, Kenneth; Sala, Anna; Shaw, John D.; Stephenson, Nathan L.; Tague, Christina; Zeppel, Melanie, 2015. Tree mortality from drought, insects, and their interactions in a changing climate
    Hahn, Beth; Saab, Victoria A.; Bentz, Barbara J.; Loehman, Rachel A.; Keane II, Robert E., 2014. Ecological consequences of the MPB epidemic for habitats and populations of wildlife [Chapter 5]
    Jenkins, Michael J.; Runyon, Justin B.; Fettig, Christopher J.; Page, Wesley G.; Bentz, Barbara J., 2014. Interactions among the mountain pine beetle, fires, and fuels
    Fettig, Christopher J.; Reid, Mary L.; Bentz, Barbara J.; Sevanto, Sanna; Spittlehouse, David L.; Wang, T., 2013. Changing climates, changing forests: A western North American perspective
    Addison, A. L.; Powell, J. A.; Six, D. L.; Moore, M.; Bentz, Barbara J., 2013. The role of temperature variability in stabilizing the mountain pine beetle-fungus mutualism
    Davis, Ryan S.; Hood, Sharon M.; Bentz, Barbara J., 2012. Fire-injured ponderosa pine provide a pulsed resource for bark beetles
    Bracewell, Ryan R.; Pfrender, Michael E.; Mock, Karen E.; Bentz, Barbara J., 2011. Cryptic postzygotic isolation in an eruptive species of bark beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae)
    Bentz, Barbara J.; Bracewell, Ryan B.; Mock, Karen E.; Pfrender, Michael E., 2011. Genetic architecture and phenotypic plasticity of thermally-regulated traits in an eruptive species, Dendroctonus ponderosae
    Bentz, Barbara J.; Campbell, Elizabeth; Gibson, Ken; Kegley, Sandra; Logan, Jesse; Six, Diana, 2011. Mountain pine beetle in high-elevation five-needle white pine ecosystems
    Hansen, Matt; Bentz, Barbara J.; Powell, James A.; Gray, David R.; Vandygriff, James C., 2011. Prepupal diapause and instar IV developmental rates of the spruce beetle, Dendroctonus rufipennis (Coleoptera: Curculionidae, Scolytinae)
    Raffa, Kenneth F.; Aukema, Brian; Bentz, Barbara J.; Carroll, Allan; Erbilgin, Nadir; Herms, Daniel A.; Hicke, Jeffrey A.; Hofstetter, Richard W.; Katovich, Steven; Lindgren, B. Staffan; Logan, Jesse; Mattson, William; Munson, A. Steven; Robison, Daniel J.; Six, Diana L.; Tobin, Patrick C.; Townsend, Philip A.; Wallin, Kimberly F., 2009. A literal use of "forest health" safeguards against misuse and misapplication
    Bentz, Barbara J.; Logan, Jesse; MacMahon, Jim; Allen, Craig D.; Ayres, Matt; Berg, Ed; Carroll, Allan; Hansen, Matt; Hicke, Jeff; Joyce, Linda A.; Macfarlane, Wallace; Munson, Steve; Negron, Jose; Paine, Tim; Powell, Jim; Raffa, Ken; Regniere, Jacques; Reid, Mary; Romme, Bill; Seybold, Steven J.; Six, Diana; Tomback, Diana; Vandygriff, James C.; Veblen, Tom; White, Mike; Witcosky, Jeff; Wood, David, 2009. Bark beetle outbreaks in western North America: Causes and consequences
    Lundquist, John E.; Bentz, Barbara J., 2009. Bark beetles in a changing climate
    Davis, C. S.; Mock, K. E.; Bentz, Barbara J.; Bromilow, S. M.; Bartell, N. V.; Murray, B. W.; Roe, A. D.; Cooke, J. E. K., 2009. Isolation and characterization of 16 microsatellite loci in the mountain pine beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins (Coleoptera: Curculionidae: Scolytinae)
    Gibson, Ken; Kegley, Sandy; Bentz, Barbara J., 2009. Mountain pine beetle
    Raffa, Kenneth F.; Aukema, Brian H.; Bentz, Barbara J.; Carroll, Allan L.; Hicke, Jeffrey A.; Turner, Monica G.; Romme, William H., 2008. Cross-scale drivers of natural disturbances prone to anthropogenic amplification: Dynamics of biome-wide bark beetle eruptions
    Bentz, Barbara J.; Alston, Diane; Evans, Ted, 2008. Great Basin insect outbreaks
    Brunelle, Andrea; Rehfeldt, Gerald E.; Bentz, Barbara J.; Munson, A. Steven, 2008. Holocene records of Dendroctonus bark beetles in high elevation pine forests of Idaho and Montana, USA
    Kaufmann, Merrill R.; Aplet, Gregory H.; Babler, Michael G.; Baker, William L.; Bentz, Barbara J.; Harrington, Michael; Hawkes, Brad C.; Huckaby, Laurie Kay Stroh; Jenkins, Michael J.; Kashian, Daniel M.; Keane II, Robert E.; Kulakowski, Dominik; McCaughey, Ward; McHugh, Charles W.; Negron, Jose; ; Romme, William H.; Shepperd, Wayne; Smith, Frederick W.; Sutherland, Elaine K.; Tinker, Daniel; Veblen, Thomas T., 2008. The status of our scientific understanding of lodgepole pine and mountain pine beetles - a focus on forest ecology and fire behavior
    Negron, Jose; Bentz, Barbara J.; Fettig, Christopher J.; Gillette, Nancy; Hansen, Matt; Hayes, Jane L.; Kelsey, Rick G.; Lundquist, John E.; Lynch, Ann M.; Progar, Robert A.; Seybold, Steven J., 2008. US Forest Service bark beetle research in the western United States: Looking toward the future
    Hood, Sharon M.; Bentz, Barbara J.; Gibson, Ken; Ryan, Kevin; DeNitto, Gregg, 2007. Assessing post-fire Douglas-fir mortality and Douglas-fir beetle attacks in the northern Rocky Mountains
    Mock, K. E.; Bentz, Barbara J.; O'Neill, E. M.; Chong, J. P.; Orwin, J.; Pfrender, M. E., 2007. Landscape-scale genetic variation in a forest outbreak species, the mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae)
    Bentz, Barbara J.; Cognato, Anthony; Raffa, Kenneth eds., 2007. Proceedings from the Third Workshop on Genetics of Bark Beetles and Associated Microorganisms
    Bentz, Barbara J.; Schen-Langenheim, Greta, 2007. The mountain pine beetle and whitebark pine waltz: Has the music changed?
    Wulder, Michael A; White, J. C.; Bentz, Barbara J.; Alvarez, M. F.; Coops, N. C., 2006. Estimating the probability of mountain pine beetle red-attack damage
    Hansen, Matt; Bentz, Barbara J.; Munson, A. Steven; Vandygriff, James C.; Turner, David L., 2006. Evaluation of funnel traps for estimating tree mortality and associated population phase of spruce beetle in Utah
    Gilbert, Estella; Powell, James A.; Logan, Jesse A.; Bentz, Barbara J., 2004. Comparison of three models predicting developmental milestones given environmental and individual variation
    Hood, Sharon M.; Bentz, Barbara J.; Ryan, Kevin C., 2003. Douglas-fir beetle attack and tree mortality following wildfire
    Cutler, Richard; Brown, Leslie; Powell, James; Bentz, Barbara J.; Cutler, Adele, 2003. Identifying "redtops": Classification of satellite imagery for tracking mountain pine beetle progression through a pine forest
    Chojnacky, David C.; Bentz, Barbara J.; Logan, Jesse A., 2000. Mountain pine beetle attack in ponderosa pine: Comparing methods for rating susceptibility
    Gibson, Ken; Kegley, Sandy; Bentz, Barbara J., 1990. Mountain Pine Beetle
    Six pine beetles placed upon a penny
    The mountain pine beetle is the most notable killer of pines in western North America. Bristlecone pines grow at high elevations and are among the longest-lived conifers globally.  Although the bristlecone species Great Basin bristlecone and foxtail pine appear to be less preferred by mountain pine beetle and may not be suitable for mountain pine beetle offspring success, their close relative Rocky Mountain bristlecone is now a confirmed and suitable host. 
    A closeup photo of a mountain pine beetle.
    A generation time of 1 year is the most successful strategy for mountain pine beetle, a notable tree killer in the western U.S. However, generations time is dictated by temperature, which is changing globally. Because locally evolved adaptations in mountain pine beetle have resulted in strict physiological requirements for temperature regimes at specific times of the year, population persistence will be dependent on temperature changes that are not too hot, but just right.
    Will climate warming be good or bad for mountain pine beetle?
    Insects are expected to be favored by climate change as warm winters increase survival and warm summers speed up development. Many species, however, have adapted to seasonal aspects of their environment and warming that occurs too fast may disrupt their way of life. A research-based temperature-driven model suggests that within the next few decades mountain pine beetle range retraction may occur in the United States as its lifecycle is disrupted by excessive warming. 
    Image 1. Mountain pine beetle-caused whitebark pine mortality near Black Butte, MT. BJ Bentz photo.
    Future forests are being shaped by a changing climate. In addition to the direct effects on trees, climate change is influencing bark beetle disturbance events. Understanding the influence of future climate on bark beetle population growth and associated tree mortality is imperative for management of future forests.
    Image 1. A live Great Basin bristlecone pine surrounded by mountain pine beetle-killed limber pines near Mount Moriah, Nevada.  BJ Bentz photo.
    Climate change is altering species geographic ranges, including the mountain pine beetle which is currently found further north than any other time in recorded history. Warming temperatures have caused millions of acres of mountain pine beetle-caused tree mortality across western North America, including in high elevation pine ecosystems. Extensive tree mortality in high-elevation pines is troubling, as they are foundational species playing significant ecological roles and have relatively advanced age until reproduction.
    Spruce beetles are a native insect that infest spruce forests.
    In recent decades, bark beetle disturbances are increasing in extent and severity across western forests. Causes and consequences of spruce beetle (Dendroctonus rufipennis) infestation are important to the management of Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii) forests. Forest Service scientists modeled the effects of increased temperatures and changing forest stand conditions, such as density and species composition, on the likelihood of spruce beetle infestation over time. Findings from this study are being incorporated into management guidelines for silviculturists who wish to mitigate spruce beetle infestation by modifying the density or composition of Engelmann spruce forests in the Interior West.
    Mountain pine beetle
    Genetic differences in physiological pathways influenced by temperature impact how populations of mountain pine beetles respond to continually changing climate. The potential for adaptation to rapidly changing conditions could result in tree mortality in warm areas of the southwest U.S. where this insect has historically not been a major cause of tree mortality.
    An ideal combination of temperature and precipitation associated with a changing climate are responsible for recent Mountain Pine Beetle population outbreaks. Field-validated models that describe the intricate temperature-dependent processes that foster Mountain Pine Beetle success allows us to predict forest vulnerability in a changing climate.
    Spruce beetle (Coleoptera: Curculionidae, Scolytinae) is the major disturbance agent of North American spruce, but current methods to suppress beetle populations vary in scale efficacy, cost, and environmental impact. A high-dose, high release MCH dispenser was found to be an effective area treatment for protection against spruce beetle attacks. Lethal trap trees and semiochemical repellents could provide managers with new tools for protecting hosts trees from spruce beetle attacks.
    Synergistic interactions of climate change, mountain pine beetle infestations, and wildfire are likely to catalyze landscape-scale changes in vegetation distributions, successional stage, forest structure, and wildlife habitat suitability. Our research will provide forest managers with information they need to project changes to habitat suitability for wildlife under a range of alternative climate and management scenarios.
    Great Basin bristlecone pine (GBBP) (Pinus longaeva) is a long-lived species found at high elevations in Utah, Nevada, and southeastern California (CA). 'Methuselah', a GBBP found in the White Mountains, CA, is the oldest known living non-clonal organism. Foxtail pine (FTP) (P.
    Mountain pine beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins, is the most significant disturbance agent in pine forests of western North America. Silvicultural treatments that reduce the number of susceptible host trees and alter age class distribution and species composition are considered viable options for reducing stand susceptibility to mountain pine beetle-caused mortality. Short-term efficacy of thinning treatments to reduce bark beetle-caused tree mortality has been evaluated, but long-term efficacy has not.