Spruce Beetle To Impact AAC
Prince George, B.C. – They are small, but they are having a major impact on the forests in the interior, they are the Spruce Bark Beetle, and a two day conference is underway in Prince George to learn how all stakeholders can work together to mitigate the impact of the latest invasion.The infestation will have an impact on decisions about the mid term timber supply in the region says B.C.’s Chief Forester, Diane Nicholls ” We are looking at the impacts of the Spruce Beetle, on top of the impacts of the mountain Pine Beetle, we’re looking at not just what it’s doing to the mid term timber supply but what it’s actually also doing on other values on the land base, be that wildlife habitat, be that water management, be that recreational opportunities. Spruce Beetle as you know is a different beast than the mountain pine beetle, it is usually in salt and pepper stands, they are not mono-culture stands of spruce, They are mixed with other species, and those other species, as well as the spruce, are part of our mid term timber supply.”
Nicholls says the study of the spruce beetle infestation has three aspects:
- detection of the current population, where its growing, how its diminishing, how its moving
- direction to licensees for treatment, so how are people going to address the damage that is being done, how do licensees operationally get at that wood where it makes sense. Identify where wood is not accessible.
- while respecting the mid-term timber supply needs, really recognizing what is needed across the land base for the other values as well.
The Spruce Beetle is no stranger to B.C. , in fact, Entomologist Robert Hodgkinson says throughout North America, “Anywhere white spruce grows, you will find the spruce beetle”
He says there are some factors which make a beetle population turn into an epidemic.
- favourable habitat (blowdown) and favourable weather with no early or late cold snaps allow the beetle population to build.
- over mature forest, or a forest that’s under stress provide the susceptible hosts
Hodgkinson says the spruce beetle has a two year life cycle and like the Mountain Pine Beetle can produce it’s own form of “anti-freeze” to make it through the winter. Only cold snaps of minus 32 or colder, which come on before the beetle has a chance to produce the ‘anti-freeze’ will kill it. Woodpeckers are also helpful in reducing the beetle population, eating 2200 larvae a day, but because they are territorial, they prevent other woodpeckers from assisting in the job so they are not capable of wiping out the spruce beetle population.
On the eve of the conference, the Ministry of Forests released data which shows the infestation is larger than had been thought in the Prince George and Mackenzie forest districts. The latest information pegs the infestation at about 210 thousand hectares, with 137 thousand hectares located in the Prince George Forest District. That is a significant increase over the estimates from 2015 which noted 156 thousand hectares in the entire Omineca region were infected.
Chief Forester Nicholls says this infestation, on the heels of the Mountain Pine Beetle, has changed the landscape “Knowing that mountain pine beetle has come through and we have done extensive harvesting to salvage that pine beetle wood, we’re in a different landscape now, and we need to think about what we need for balance across that landscape, what makes sense for all the needs. I think that’s our trick here today, so we all get a good understanding of the life cycle of the beast we are looking at what the historical information tells us, what the new population information tells us from our recent surveys, and what do we do proactively, collaboratively, together to make sure we are making the best decisions for this time and the future for this area of the province.”
While today’s session is the first of a two day summit on the Spruce Beetle, Nicholls says the summit will not be the last of the meetings on this subject “I suspect that as we learn more about this outbreak we will know and want to change things and alter courses, when and where it’s needed.”