Early detection key in fighting Mountain Pine Beetle
News that the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation, which has decimated the central interior of British Columbia, had made its way over the Rocky Mountains to Alberta is a cause for concern amongst entomologists.
Earlier this year it was discovered that these beetles had successfully made the transition from Lodgepole Pine, B.C. to Jack Pine in Alberta. This spells bad news for the boreal forests of Saskatchewan if the beetle continues its migration east.
Forestry Insect and Disease expert with the Ministry, Dr. Rory McIntosh feels a new approach is needed in monitoring the beetles.
“There’s a lot of success in early intervention and slowing the spread strategy,” said McIntosh.
“The key here is early detection and rapid response. If you don’t know it’s there, it will develop and grow and build and then create its own population and expand.”
McIntosh likened the spreading of the beetle to the spreading of a forest fire caused by burning embers. It’s a lot easier to jump on that spark and put it out, than to wait until it’s a wildfire and then attack it.
“If you continue to monitor it and you are aggressively falling and burning infested trees before they have the ability to create enough local populations to create mass attacks and really start to take foothold, then yes, there’s a good chance of slowing the spread,” said McIntosh.
One of the biggest challenges with early intervention is detecting the trees before they’ve been infested. During aerial flights, the red trees indicate the dead trees; so early detection is key.
“What we do is once we locate the red trees, we go onto the ground and begin a star probe,” McIntosh said.
“We move in concentric circles and survey around that tree, identifying any of the green attack trees which are hard to see from the air. There is a slight change in canopy colour which is very difficult to detect form the air.”
They can also look for pitch tubes in the freshly attacked tree, where the tree hasn’t turned red, but there are still symptoms of a beetle attacking that tree.
It’s a very systematic process in using the red tree as an indication and moving out from there. Then those trees are marked for removal, felled and burned.
Edited by News Talk Radio’s Chris Morin.