Frequently Asked Questions


Is the mountain pine beetle new to British Columbia?

No. Lodgepole pine and the mountain pine beetle have always co-existed as a natural part of the ecosystem in British Columbia’s interior forests.

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Why is British Columbia in the midst of a mountain pine beetle epidemic?

Forests of mature lodgepole pine are prime habitat for the mountain pine beetle. The beetle also thrives under warm weather conditions. The interior of British Columbia has an abundance of mature lodgepole pine, and has experienced several consecutive mild winters and drought-like summers. Beetle populations in many parts of interior B.C. have increased to epidemic levels as a result.

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How exactly does the mountain pine beetle kill trees?

Beetles attack pine trees by laying eggs under the bark. When the eggs hatch, the larvae mine the phloem area beneath the bark and eventually cut off the tree’s supply of nutrients.

The beetles also carry a fungus that causes dehydration and inhibits a tree’s natural defences against beetle attacks. The fungi stains the wood blue or grey. Despite the discoloration, the wood remains as structurally sound as unattacked pine and can still be used for high-quality products.

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Does the mountain pine beetle have natural predators?

Birds - particularly woodpeckers - enjoy feasting on mountain pine beetles. Beetle larvae can also be susceptible to some parasites and insect predators. However, the current epidemic is far beyond the level at which the beetle’s natural enemies can be much help in B.C.’s battle against the beetle.

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How is B.C.’s beetle epidemic being addressed?

The beetle battle is being fought on many fronts. The Province of British Columbia has a multi-faceted action plan to deal with the short-term consequences of the epidemic, while also working to sustain the well-being of the economy, environment and communities over the long term. British Columbia's Mountain Pine Beetle Action Plan for 2006-2011 guides provincial responses and helps coordinate all levels of government, communities, First Nations, industries and other stakeholders working to mitigate impacts of the epidemic.

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What is the current size of British Columbia’s mountain pine beetle infestation?

The Ministry of Forests and Range estimates that as of 2009 the cumulative area of provincial Crown forest affected to some degree (red-attack and grey-attack) was about 16.3 million hectares.

The ministry also estimates that a cumulative total of 675 million cubic metres of timber (630 million cubic metres of red- and grey-attack, plus 45 million cubic metres of green-attack) have been affected since the current infestation began.

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Does beetle-attack increase the possibility of wildfire?

Large areas of dead pine stands represent a potential fire hazard. The Province is directing fuel management activities in beetle areas as recommended in Filmon’s Firestorm Provincial Review report. Harvesting affected stands aids fire management by removing the hazard and breaking the continuity of the fuels.

These fuel management treatments are specifically designed to reduce interface fire threats to communities and First Nations located in the infestation zone. The interface is the area where urban development and wilderness meet.

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What will be done with all this beetle-attacked timber?

Not all of the beetle timber has to be logged today. The timber is expected to retain its commercial value anywhere from five to 18 years after attack (depending on local site conditions). Research and "shelf-life" modelling continues to be conducted to help determine priority areas where more immediate harvesting is required to recover economic value.

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What new and existing markets are there for beetle-attacked timber?

Beetle-attacked timber can be used for anything from standard framing lumber, to value-added wood products, to energy generation. The beetle-transmitted blue stain has no practical effect on strength properties, gluing characteristics or adhesion of furniture finishes.

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What does the current beetle epidemic mean to future timber supplies?

Allowable annual cuts have been increased as an emergency measure for salvaging or recovering the greatest value possible from beetle-attacked timber. The temporary increases have resulted in a surge in harvesting activity in some areas of the central Interior. However, significant reductions to these allowable annual cuts are inevitable as timber supplies decline and the epidemic finishes running its course.

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How are communities being prepared to deal with the falldown in timber supply?

The $185-million Northern Development Initiative Trust (with $32 million set aside specifically for mountain pine beetle recovery projects) and the $50-million Southern Interior Development Initiative Trust have been set up to give communities the ability to pursue new opportunities for stimulating economic growth and job creation.

Many forest-dependent communities, through regional groups such as the Cariboo-Chilcotin, Omineca, and Southern Interior beetle action coalitions, have already begun planning around a transition stage for diversifying and building long-term economic sustainability.

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Is the mountain pine beetle a threat to other provinces?

Scientists believe the mountain pine beetle is a tangible threat to other provinces as jackpine, found across the prairies and eastern Canada, is a potential host species for the beetle if predicted climate change expands the range of the beetle.

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How is reforestation and rehabilitation being handled?

Licensees – including BC Timber Sales – are legally responsible to reforest any area that they harvest. The most productive growing sites are identified to ensure a return to fully stocked, free-growing timberlands as quickly as possible.

British Columbia has also committed $161 million to Forests for Tomorrow – the reforestation plan designed to speed the recovery of forest values in areas affected by the mountain pine beetle.  Site surveys and mapping, creating better growing conditions, and research into preventing future infestations are just some of the work being done through the Forests for Tomorrow program.

Not all infested areas will be harvested, but they may need to be rehabilitated to restore forest ecosystem productivity. Discussions with various stakeholders and other government agencies are ongoing to ensure that any rehabilitation efforts are part of overall, long-term planning.

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What about conservation of land use plans?

Some land use plans may need to be revisited, since the current extent of the mountain pine beetle infestation was not envisioned when those land use plans were approved. Some harvesting of beetle-infested trees may need to occur in order to reduce wildfire risks and ensure the values identified in the land use plans are protected as much as possible.

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What management techniques are used to control beetles?

In addition to harvesting at the leading edges of what is known as “green attack,” a variety of other techniques can be used to manage infestations on a smaller scale. These techniques include:

  • Pheromone baiting - luring beetles into trees that have been ‘baited’ with a synthetic hormone that mimics the scent of a female beetle. Beetles can then be contained in a single area, where they can more easily be destroyed.
  • Sanitation harvesting - removing single infested trees to control the spread of beetle populations to other areas.
  • Snip and skid - removing groups of infested trees that are scattered over a large area.
  • Controlled, or mosaic, burns - burning an area where infested trees are concentrated, to reduce high beetle infestations in the area or to help reduce the fire hazard in an area.
  • Fall and burn - cutting (felling) and burning beetle-infested trees to prevent the spread of beetle populations to other areas. This is usually done in winter, to reduce the risk of starting forest fires.
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How is the mountain pine beetle managed in provincial protected areas?

BC Parks' conservation web site addresses some of the more common enquiries about the management of mountain pine beetle in provincial protected areas.

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What can I do to try and protect my private property against the mountain pine beetle?

It's important for private landowners with mature pine stands to be vigilant against the mountain pine beetle, and aware of what an infested tree looks like. If the beetle is present in their timber, property owners have several options available for attempting to limit the spread of the beetle across their land. For a list of mountain pine beetle signs and indicators, and what private landowners can do to fight back, see the Mountain Pine Beetle in B.C. brochure on the Ministry of Forests and Range web site.

last updated: February 2008