Alberta making progress against the mountain pine beetle
Aerial surveys show Alberta is making progress in its fight against mountain pine beetle infestations in some parts of the province.
This year’s aerial surveys show about 50% fewer red beetle-killed pine trees where control programs are in effect, primarily in west-central Alberta and east to Slave Lake. However, the number of newly attacked trees has increased in the Grande Prairie and Peace River areas, despite the aerial surveys showing no large in-flight of beetles from eastern British Columbia.
“This year’s surveys show some positive results where the province’s mountain pine beetle control strategy has been most aggressive,” said Sustainable Resource Development Minister Frank Oberle. “However, Alberta will continue its fight against the threat of pine beetles.”
It can take up to a year for a beetle-killed pine tree to turn red. The aerial surveys pinpoint locations and counts of trees attacked in 2010 that were undetected or not controlled. Results are combined with estimates of trees attacked this year, plus beetle population trend surveys from the spring, to plan control actions for the coming year. Operational plans are underway to remove infested trees.
Mountain pine beetles threaten the health of six million hectares of Alberta forests with stands of pine trees. The infestations began in southwest Alberta in 2002, and increased rapidly in west-central Alberta in 2006 and 2009 after a wind-assisted in-flight of insects from British Columbia.
Beetles live under the bark of mature pine trees, making them hard to detect and control. They emerge to fly to and infest new trees in July and August each year. The winter weather can help control the infestation as minus 40C without wind chill for 24 hours at the right time in the beetles’ life cycle can kill them. Beetles can maintain their populations if only two and a half per cent of them survive the winter.