Although they’re only about six millimetres in length, the tiny Spruce Beetle can wipe out entire forested areas.
Albert Kohler with the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition (OBAC), says the bug took a toll on the Omineca Region last year. “It’s around 156 thousand hectares, which if you calculate it in sections one section is a mile by a mile, which is more than 50 sections.”
One of the hardest areas hit are the eastern valleys of Mackenzie and the northern portion of the Prince George timber supply. The Omineca Region of the province is in an ongoing battle with the growing Spruce Beetle epidemic. One million dollars for 2016/17 was committed earlier this year to offer some reprieve.
The province recently allocated another half million dollars for bark beetle detection efforts as well says Heather Wiebe, says Omineca Spruce Beetle Project Manager. “There’s other areas like in the northeast and into the pine pass where their populations are just starting to grow so we have different areas and levels of infestation and where they’re starting to grow in the outbreak.”
From the air, the Omineca Spruce Beetle Team can see dead trees. That’s how they know the location of the bugs and where they might go next says Wiebe. “We use helicopter GPS and that brings us down lower in the altitude and we’re able to see more and then finally we go into the ground and the ground surveys is what really tells us the most and those are ongoing now.”
Another concerning problem lies in the fact that Spruce Beetles live in about a seven year cycle. Most of the bugs are in their middle stages, which means it’s important to control the population early before the bugs spread. “They’re not flying any longer so where they are to their extent right now is where they will be for next year’s flight which will start in May,” Wiebe said. “Right now there’s not really limitations there’s opportunities, this is where we need to understand where we’ll be going for harvest and where conventional trap trees will be put down.”
If both the ministry and OBAC don’t act fast, Prince George could potentially see a reduction in its annual allowable cut. Less timber could mean less resources to support jobs says Kohler. “The spruce beetle is very fast and any tree that is affected it cannot be shipped to a mill and handled that way so we lose the wood that way.”
For now, the Omineca Spruce Beetle Team is surveying areas. More results will be available at a Spruce Beetle Summit in Prince George set for October 18th to 20th.