Spruce beetle a looming threat to B.C. forests

The Omineca region is experiencing the biggest outbreak in the province since the 1980s, and it could be heading north.

Saulteau First Nations is preparing for an invasion from the south.

Armed with lessons learned from the pine beetle outbreak, SFN, together with the provincial government and industry partners are taking steps to get ahead of the next big problem for B.C.’s forests: the spruce beetle. 

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Already, more than 156,000 hectares of forest in the Omineca Region, which includes Mackenzie and Prince George, are currently infested. It’s the biggest outbreak in the province since the 1980s, according to the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources. 

Although the beetle is naturally occurring in forests throughout B.C and other parts of North America—in fact, each conifer has its own beetle—warmer winters in recent years have caused populations to increase. Like the pine beetle, the spruce beetle’s transition to adulthood has also been shortened from two years to one thanks to a warming climate.

But there’s no need to panic just yet.

“Although the outbreak is a concern, the situation is not comparable to the spread of the mountain pine beetle,” the Ministry said in a statement on its website.

The spruce beetle is easier to deal with than the pine beetle, SFN forestry technician John Stokmans said. But if things get out of hand, it could be just as serious.

A lot of the lessons learned from the pine beetle are being put to use in this new infestation, Stokmans said. In particular, the speed with which they are responding to the potential threat.

spruce beetle
A spruce beetle infected tree. - John Stokmans

One way to get ahead of the spread of the beetle is by setting up so-called “trap” trees—spruce stands that are cut down in late winter and left to be infested throughout summer and then harvested in the fall, removing the beetles within from the forest.

“If it really blows up like the pine beetle did, they’re going to have to go in and salvage logs after the fact,” Stokmans said. The process removes dead and dying trees which can be a blight on the landscape and a tinderbox waiting for a spark. 

“If you let it go like we thought we could with the pine beetle, it’s going to keep going and leave dead timber behind,” Stokmans said.

That means lost revenues for SFN, the government and the logging companies involved. Stokmans says being proactive about the issue is the only way to stop that from happening.

One way or another: the time has come for action in the beetle battle to keep the bug at bay.

dcreporter@dcdn.ca

© Copyright Dawson Creek Mirror News

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