Population of mountain pine beetles declining

Some mountain pine beetles and larvae under the bark of a tree. Photo courtesy of Crystal Ionson.

Pearl Lorentzen
For South Peace News

Alberta Forestry, Parks and Tourism controls mountain pine beetles throughout Alberta. This winter in the Slave Lake Forest Area, the number of infested trees is low.
Jenn McCormick is the forest health officer for Slave Lake Forest Area.
“Survey and control work are currently occurring in the Slave Lake Forest Area,” she says.
“And it looks like we will be controlling just under 200 trees this winter. Control occurs after a surveyor goes to the site and has a look for any pine trees infested by (beetles). Once an infested pine tree is found, it is cut and burned.”
The control program this year was in Marten Hills and Swan Hills.
Under 200 trees is a marked decrease compared to the last 10 years. From 2012-14, the program controlled an average of 3,500 trees per year, says McCormick. The infestation peak was in 2016 with 21,000 trees controlled.
“Since then (2016), the control numbers have been steadily coming down,” she adds.
“This is attributed to our aggressive control program and past extreme cold weather.”
This same trend is happening across Alberta. A news release from the provincial government says, “Beetle populations in Alberta have declined 94 per cent from their most recent peak in 2019. The drop reflects the continuous efforts to slow the spread following the 2019 and 2020 winter seasons.”
The mountain pine beetle is the most destructive pine insect pest in Alberta. The mountain pine beetle kills pine trees by producing a blue-stain fungi that clogs and destroys the conductive tissue of an affected tree.
There are 5.5 million hectares of pine in Alberta that is susceptible to mountain pine beetle. The value of this pine is more than $11 billion.

The remains of trees cut down and burned to stop the spread of mountain pine beetles. Photo courtesy of Crystal Ionson.

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