Pine Beetles are Attacking Alberta’s Trees

By: albertaarb - August 5, 2015


The notorious pine beetle has been making its presence known across the province of Alberta, threatening to devastate entire forests across the oil-bearing province. The struggle to contain this pest is a familiar battle for not only Alberta, but for Canada as a whole, as eastern provinces have also seen the scourge menace their forests.

Mountain Pine Beetle Facts


The dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins is an insect that prefers the taste of aged pine forests. It's referred to by most as the mountain pine beetle, which has recently been found running around and dining on Albertan old-growth pine forests.


It's a tiny insect, typically between four to 8 millimeters in length, with a life cycle that takes one year to complete. Sometimes, at higher elevations, the life cycle of the mountain pine beetle lasts two years.


In mid-summer, male beetles change the tree that they infest while female beetle bore through the wood to set up enough space to lay eggs. In these spaces, males mate with females, after which the female beetle lays around 60 eggs.


The eggs hatch after a couple of weeks and stay in the bark, where they spend time eating spots for themselves to grow. Over the fall and winter seasons, the larvae rest before eventually reemerging in the spring, eventually turning into adults by summer.


All different types of pines are appropriate targets for the mountain pine beetle, including Scots, limber, jack, lodgepole, whitebark and ponderosa pine trees.

The Threat to Trees


Pine trees are used as food and left to die by the mountain pine beetle. In the process of feeding and breeding, the beetle clogs, then destroy the conductive tissue that helps keep the tree healthy. In particular, the beetle pass along a strain of fungus that leaves a blue stain. This fungus is the main food source for the larvae.


The tree can die in as little as one month, as the combination of the blue fungus and the larva eating away at the tree kills the pine. Their hardy nature allows them to survive temperatures as cold as -35 Celsius over several straight days.


Infestations have been happening for decades, with one of the earliest recorded taking place during around 1940. The worst took place in 1975, when the province of Alberta needed to launch a coordinated effort to save its forest.


Capable of spreading far and wide across Canada, the mountain pine beetle has the ability and the capacity to completely destroy large swaths of one of Canada's greatest natural resources.

Have Your Trees Been Attacked by Pine Beetles? 

If your trees have been attacked by pine beetles, you should contact an arborist as soon as possible. Although we at Alberta Arborists prefer not to use pesticides for the treatment of diseases or insect infestations, we can professinally diagnosis your trees pest and disease problems and then recommend the appropriate course of action required. If the use of pesticides are still needed, we can refer you to a local licensed company that can provide you with this service. 

Feel free to contact us if you have more questions. 

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