2008-08-03

How the West was lost

In a laboratory at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George, a moving plate jostles eight test tubes inside a mirrored glass box. Bacteria in the test tubes are being used to grow the mountain pine beetle genes responsible for producing the insect’s chemical defenses against lower temperatures.

Dr. Dezene Huber and his students hope to better understand the simple yet resilient insect that has destroyed forests, economies and lifestyles across the province.

“Our models tell us right now that the mountain pine beetle will kill approximately 76 percent of mature lodgepole pine by 2015,” Jim Snetsinger, British Columbia’s chief forester, said. “We believe the infestation has peaked but that it will continue to kill pine trees.”