• Credit: dailykos.com

Lumber producers in regions infested with the dreaded mountain pine beetle are facing trouble. The beetle lays its eggs under the bark of pine trees, at the same time introducing blue stain fungus that prevents the tree from fighting back against the beetle. In combination, the feeding beetle larvae and the fungus soon kill the tree. For lumber producers, it’s a double whammy: their trees are dying, and the lumber they can saw from salvaged timber is stained blue.

But some buyers like the blue stain, reports the Rapid City Journal (“Markets sought for pine beetle infested wood,” by Mary Garrigan). Tom Shaffer, an executive with lumber producer Neiman Enterprises, told the paper he wishes he could find more customers like Steve and Kathy Mullins. The pair are building a custom lodge in the Black Hills whose interior is finished out with boards sawn from beetle-killed pine.

“We fell in love with the exceptional beauty and charm” of blue-stained pine, Kathy Mullins told the Journal. The paper describes the attraction this way: “The ‘stain’ varies from shades of light blue to smoky grays to a pale black wash that marks the beetles' advance into the tree. Sometimes the blue stain barely feathers the edge; sometimes it invades far into a board, creating a sharp contrast as it butts up to the warm wood tones of the tree's heartwood.”

Will other buyers feel the same way? Neiman Enterprises’ Shaffer hopes so. His company processes a million and a half trees a year, reports the Journal — and of those, at least 30% had blue stain last.