Mountain Pine Beetle

Monitoring and protecting pine trees in Lac Ste. Anne County

The Mountain Pine Beetle is a small bark beetle 4-7.5 mm in length (about the size of a grain of rice).

In 2006, strong winds carried beetles from BC to the Grande Prairie and Peace River regions. Similar conditions in 2018 carried beetles from Jasper to the Lac Ste. Anne region as well as Yellowhead, Parkland, Brazeau, Leduc, Wetaskiwin, Clearwater, Ponoka and Lacombe counties.

Mountain Pine Beetle

Prevent MPB infestation in your trees and forests

Mountain Pine Beetle
Mountain Pine Beetle

A Bit of Beetle History

60 percent of Alberta’s forests are in the prime MPB susceptibility range of approximately 80 – 120 years old. Normally, only 15 percent of trees should be in this age range. Effective wildfire control (protection of human values, public safety) in our past contributed to forests showing low diversity in age class.

Currently in Alberta, more than 1.27 million hectares of forest have sustained some level of MPB damage. This figure represents about 20 percent of the more than six million hectares of forest at risk of MPB infestation.

It is unlikely that MPB will disappear from Alberta’s forests. In some areas of the province, MPB will be an issue that needs to be managed now, and further into the future. Management will continue to be adaptive to respond to current situations.

Pine Beetle Pitch Tubes On Pine Tree Trunk
Pine Beetle Pitch Tubes On Pine Tree
YOUNG TREES ARE SAFER
Young pine trees that are smaller than 20 cm in diameter (measured 1.4 m off the ground) are generally not targeted by MPB.

2022 Mountain Pine Beetle Update

Decreasing risk of mountain pine beetle (MPB) in Lac Ste. Anne County

Each year Alberta government foresters carry out aerial surveys and ground assessments to forecast the population and to identify the leading edge and active zones for MPB. For 2021 they reported the numbers of MPB are “definitely down.”  The annual mortality assessments completed between mid- May to mid-June help predict how successfully beetles may spread this season.

For 2022, in Lac Ste. Anne County, it is still worth using Verbenone to protect vulnerable, high value pine trees.  This advice is from Allison Brown, Forest Health Officer in the Whitecourt Forest Area (Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development). The MPB status will be reassessed for 2023.

In 2006, strong winds carried large numbers of beetles over the mountains from BC into northern Alberta. Each year they move further into the province, in waves from areas with high populations. The fourth wave of beetles arrived in Jasper, then on moved to Hinton, Edson, and Whitecourt.

A few trees attacked by MPB were found in Lac Ste. Anne County in 2018, likely coming from Jasper. Scientist have determined beetles have eaten themselves out of house and home in Jasper- reducing the risk to Lac Ste. Anne County.

Since 2018 there have been no new reports of MPB in Lac Ste. Anne.

This is a devastating pest of mature pine forests. While the County has some stands of natural pine forest, many residents are concerned about their shelterbelts and other high-value specimen pine trees.

For 2022, Hinton and Edson are still a possible source of beetles for our County.  However, forestry crews are having good success at slowing their spread by hitting them hard with cut and burn strategies. It is predicted the past winter’s severe cold has also caused a step decline in numbers.

The good news is the cut and burn strategies are working to slow the movement of MPB across the boreal forest and into Saskatchewan.

Mountain Pine Beetle Mitigation Tips

  • Mountain pine beetles attack and kill all types of pine… When beetle populations are small, they prefer stressed, mature or over-mature (80+ years) pine. As populations grow, any pine over 12.5 cm in diameter can be killed – even healthy trees.
  • The County carries a product called Beetle Block Verbenone pouches that can be attached to specific high-value trees. Verbenone is used in spot applications to help prevent beetles from attacking valued trees. Verbenone is an anti-aggregation pheromone used to prevent beetle attacks on healthy pine.
  • Mountain pine beetles and many other insects communicate using pheromones. Verbenone is a synthetic anti-aggregation pheromone that replicates the beetle pheromone. Arriving beetles receive the "verbenone message" that the tree is full and the food supply is insufficient for additional beetles.
  • Verbenone is specific to MPB and is not a pesticide.
  • The application of repellent pheromones like Verbenone must be completed before the beetles emerge to look for new host trees. For the best results, a fresh pouch should be placed on the tree partway through the year.
  • Visit the Weed & Pest Control section of the County website for more mountain pine beetle mitigation information and resources.
  • The mountain pine beetle is the most serious pest of the mature pines in western Canada. Over the past four years, they have moved east of the foothills into Yellowhead, Lac Ste Anne, Parkland, Brazeau, Leduc, Wetaskiwin, Clearwater, Ponoka, and Lacombe counties.
  • Under low to normal populations, Mountain Pine Beetles act as a natural forest renewal agent by killing weak or old trees to open up the canopy for new growth. However, in areas with dense pine forests and with the higher beetle populations that the province is recording, Mountain Pine Beetles can kill up to 80% or more pine trees on a given stand. This can lead to a change in water tables, an increase in stream flow, earlier run-off patterns, and an increased risk of wildfire. In Lac Ste. Anne County, the risk is primarily for shelterbelt and other high-value specimen trees.
Pine tree with verbenone pouch

VERBENONE INFORMATION

To consult with the County about verbenone, or to book a purchase, please contact Lac Ste. Anne County Horticulturist Lorraine Taylor at 780-203-2968 or LTaylor (@) LSAC.ca
Verbenone can also be found at local garden centres

Learn More

Mountain pine Beetle FAQ

What type of trees may be attacked?

Mountain pine beetles attack and kill mature pine trees. Pines larger than 20 cm in diameter (measured 1.4 metres off the ground) are the size preferred by beetles. When beetle populations are low, they prefer stressed, over-mature trees. As beetle populations increase, pine over 12.5 cm in diameter may be killed – even healthy trees.

All species of pine are vulnerable to attack, including the 4 species native to Alberta- lodgepole, jack, whitebark, and limber, as well as the hardy introduced species often planted in shelterbelts and yards- ponderosa, Scots, red, Austrian, and eastern white pine. Mountain pine beetles do not attack spruce or fir trees.

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