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.
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.