Small beetle, big problem

Alberta never asked for it but like it not the Mountain Pine Beetle is here to stay.

Earlier this month, on Nov. 5, conference on managing Mountain Pine Beetle at the Forest Interpretive centre in Whitecourt. The conference was hosted by FPInnovations, a company that researchs methods and practices that can be used to increase the sustainability and competitiveness of the Canadian forestry industry, according to the company's website.

Ken Byrne, a Vancouver-based researcher, in FPInnovations harvesting and forest operations departments, facilitated a session on how to manage the Mountain Pine Beetle, held in Whitecourt.


Pine beetles stick around during polar vortex

Western Montana’s sub-zero temperatures still won’t be enough to control its pine bark beetle epidemic.

According to Montana’s Department of Natural Resources, neither last year’s polar vortex nor this November’s cold snap will have much, if any, effect on beetle populations.

Since 2000, pine beetles have infested more than 23 percent of all Montana’s forest land, with the most recent outbreaks occurring in the southern part of the Bitterroot National Forest and in the Big Hole area of the Beaverhead National Forest.

Climate Change Brings Destructive Pine Beetles North: New York and New Jersey Forests in the Cross-Hairs

Residents of the American West are no stranger to the mountain pine beetle -- a native insect that has been around for thousands of years but, thanks to climate change, has devastated many forests in the West in the past twenty years. Anybody who has driven through Colorado in the last few years, only to be confronted by vast expanses of bright red and gray dying trees, can attest to the havoc that an outbreak of pine beetles can wreak. With climate change, these beetle infestations are occurring over a larger range and moving higher up the mountains because the harsh winters and cold snaps needed to kill back the beetles are not occurring as regularly. Similarly, on the east coast, the related southern pine beetle was prevented from spreading too far north by winters in the northeast. Now everything has changed. Gone are the reliably cold winters of the past, and with them pine beetles have begun a predictable and inexorable march north.

In the West, the devastation is already here.

In response to a petition brought by my organization, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the U.S. government declared that the critically important whitebark pine, which inhabits high elevations throughout the Northern Rockies and has no natural defense against beetle attack, should be protected as an endangered species. Mountain pine beetles have also wreaked havoc in Canada, where a 2012 study concluded that the climate-driven pine beetle outbreak in British Columbia "ranks among the largest ecological disturbances recorded in Canada so far." In fact, changes to Canadian forests are so great that, if they continue, the loss of trees could actually raise local temperatures by as much as 1 degree, a particularly nasty feedback loop.

Corvallis students conduct live streaming broadcast on beetles

Corvallis High School “Classroom Without Walls” science students conducted a live streaming broadcast about the ecology of the mountain pine beetle from a remote location in the Bitterroot National Forest last week.

“Live in five minutes,” said Hunter Condos the “IT Guy” for the broadcast. The “set” featured the majestic ponderosa pines in a clearing on the mountain about a half-hour south of Corvallis. Fresh air and quiet – except for bird chirps – surrounded the nervous students.

The students used a web camera operated by Mollie DuBose, a laptop run by Hunter Condos, and a secondary video camera operated by Dallas Ewalt. Anchors/hosts were Morgan Weidow and Ronny Jessop and reporters/information experts were Lorenzo Wissenbach, Tyler Evans, Taia Tully and Kira Doyle.