Follow the beetle: crews gear up for another year fighting Alberta’s most ‘invasive’ species

Ah, September. All over the province, students are heading back to school, the first leaves are falling…and ESRD crews are combing our forests for the evidence that will help us mount this year’s fight against the mountain pine beetle.

Each July and August, beetles leave the trees they’ve infected, and travel to new lodgepole pines. Tracking where these beetles have gone gives us the best possible chance of fighting them.

Photo of damage caused by the mountain pine beetle.

When beetles flee dying trees, they leave trademark red needles behind.

To conduct the first stage of this survey, our crews take to the air. Using helicopters, our staff fly over the forest and look for the telltale red needles that indicate a tree dying from mountain pine beetle damage. Staff on the ground follow up, combing the areas around these dead trees for signs that beetles have invaded live, healthy ones.

Once we know where the infestation has gone, we can concentrate our control work appropriately. Much of this work involves going in to remove and destroy infested trees – and the beetles inside them – to slow the speed of infestation.


Pine beetle infestations in Alberta are mostly concentrated within a triangle-shaped area from Grande Prairie to Slave Lake to Hinton. Most of this winter’s control work will be focused within this area.

In total, this species threatens approximately six million hectares of forests. Within these areas, it’s not just trees that are affected: the mountain pine beetle damages all aspects of the ecosystem, including watersheds and wildlife habitat – as well the livelihoods of communities that are supported by forestry and tourism dollars. And although cold winter temperatures can kill the beetle, that’s not always the case – as we saw last year.

For all these reasons, our fight against the beetle is critical. We’ll continue to blog letting you know about our progress – and if you want more info in the meantime, you can check out the facts right here.


One thought on “Follow the beetle: crews gear up for another year fighting Alberta’s most ‘invasive’ species

  1. How is clear cutting stopping the spread?

    Also, you say it damages all aspects of the ecosystem including wildlife habitat and watershed and communities relying on tourist dollars. Yet when the ESRD attempts to justify clear cutting popular tourist areas, they claim that a mix of forest cover is necessary for a healthy ecosystem. You say that the light needs to hit the forest floor in areas, and deer and other grazing animals need open spaces, hence necessitating clear cuts. You also fail to mention the many species of birds that rely on standing dead trees for survival.

    In the same way, when Bragg Creek raised very valid concerns about clear cutting the watershed headwaters, the ESRD provided numerous stats to claim that it’d have no effect. Yet, when you have an area with standing dead left behind, filtering the sun and holding the snowpack, similar to a healthy forest, that somehow effects the watershed?

    How is it that everything natural will threaten the ecosystem in the ESRD’s books yet clear cutting can do no harm and is necessary for healing the ecosystem? Maybe you should change the name of your organization to the Logging Spin Doctorate.

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