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Officials say cold weather won't stop pine beetles

SIOUX FALLS (AP) — The bitter cold snap across South Dakota has cancelled events and increased calls for furnace repairs, but hopes that it might chase away the state's most unwelcome visitors are futile at best.

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Forestry officials say the mountain pine beetles that have ravaged the Black Hills in recent years can withstand the arctic temperatures, which have approached 20 below zero in some areas.

South Dakota State University forestry specialist John Ball tells the Black Hills Pioneer that pine beetles gradually acclimate to colder temperatures.

"It's cold, but unfortunately our cold is hitting us in December," Ball said. "If this same cold hit us in October, when we had that big snowstorm, that would have been a bug killer."

Ball said the beetles have evolved to actually replace the water in their bodies with a form of antifreeze they produce. They are so resilient to the cold that they can withstand a year of arctic temperatures.

"I've actually put them in a freezer and pulled them out a year later and they are still alive," Ball said. "They're a pretty tough insect that are used to a wide range of conditions that occur here."

The deep freeze is causing more inconvenience to people in South Dakota, especially those having trouble keeping their houses warm. KELO-TV reports that one heating and cooling business in Sioux Falls received 100 calls Friday from people needing furnace tuneups.

"With all the cold weather, these furnaces are working overtime. So, motors are failing, igniters are failing. People kind of tend to forget to change their filters," said Brandon Cates, a technician with Waterbury Heating and Cooling.

Annete Amdahl, of Sioux Falls, said she wasn't going to take any chances with her furnace after the temperature in her home fell several degrees. She called for help.

"Frozen pipes and burst pipes are probably one of my main concerns, but I also have two animals that are in here all day. I'd hate to come home and something bad happened to them if it got too cold," Amdahl said.

One Rapid City worker found an odd place to warm up from the chill. Jason DeVries, who delivers beer throughout the Black Hills for Eagle Sales, said he normally hustles in and out of walk-in coolers.

"When I walk into the beer cooler today, I actually warm up a little bit," DeVries told the Rapid City Journal Friday. "That's how you know it's cold."

Several events scheduled in South Dakota over the weekend were either cancelled or postponed. The annual Custer Christmas parade scheduled for Saturday was called off over concerns for the safety of the participants and spectators.