Sunpine hoping cold has killed pine beetles

Sunpine Forest Products Inc. is taking a cautious approach to recent scientific data predicting up to 95 per cent of pine beetles were killed off by deep freezes this winter.

Sunpine Forest Products Inc. is taking a cautious approach to recent scientific data predicting up to 95 per cent of pine beetles were killed off by deep freezes this winter.

Computer models run by the Canadian Forest Service forecast 95 per cent pine beetle mortality in Southern Alberta and 90 per cent on the Eastern Slopes in Northern Alberta.

“It predicts pretty high mortality and I sure hope the prediction is on,” said Tom Daniels, community forester with Sunpine, a division of West Fraser Mills Ltd.

But how much impact the cold actually had won’t be known until forest experts can get into the woods themselves to check trees later this spring, he said.

Generally, a two- to five-day cold snap of at least -40C is required to kill the beetles. Cold spells in fall or spring are particularly effective because they catch the beetles at a time when their natural anti-freeze is at lower levels.

However, pine beetle populations are hardy and it is estimated a 97.5 mortality rate is needed to stop the growth of the population.

“The reason for that is just the dynamics of the population,” said Daniels. Females lay about 100 eggs, which hatch and can soon lay 100 of their own. “That population can pretty much explode in a matter of a couple of years.”

Even if the province hit the magic 97.5 per cent mark, that doesn’t mean the pine beetle problem is solved.

“Even if we killed every beetle, we’re not out of the woods. We’re not even close to being out of the woods,” he said. Until the B.C. pine beetle population crashes, which is not predicted to happen until 2013, Alberta’s forests will continue to be threatened.

Currently, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development maps show pine beetles have invaded Southern Alberta, and used mountain passes to infest blocks of forest along the border with B.C. southwest of Grande Prairie.

The West County has not seen serious infestations yet, but there are troubling signs. Sundre Forest Products workers have baited certain trees in its forest management area with pine beetle pheromones to attract the bugs. The project was started in 2007 and five or six beetles were found in test trees. Last year, up to 55 of the rice-sized critters were spotted.

Daniels said they are not sure what has caused the jump yet, but foresters will be watching closely.

The province has taken an aggressive approach to try to ward off the scale of destruction in B.C., where four out of five mature lodgepole pines are expected to be killed off and 33.4 million acres of pine forest have been infected.

Alberta forestry companies have been asked to harvest 75 per cent of the tree stands most susceptible to pine beetles over the next 20 years. West Fraser has proposed removing 54 per cent, the most its existing processing plants can handle.

Alberta Sustainable Resource Development spokesman Darcy Whiteside was also treating the Canadian Forest Service report with caution.

“It’s really tough to look at the impacts on pine beetle until the early spring,” he said.

That’s when government crews will go out and inspect trees at about 300 sites.

“It’s nice to hear, definitely, (mortality rates) in the 90s. We know that it’s a new model and we just tend to be fairly cautious.”

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

Alberta hiring more paramedics and buying new ambulances, none for Red Deer

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer is not concerned the provincial government didn’t… Continue reading

‘My nightmare began again’: Close call as bus carrying Humboldt crash survivor rear-ended

CALGARY — A terrifying ordeal for Humboldt Broncos survivor Ryan Straschnitzki this… Continue reading

Halifax airport operations normalize after Boeing 747 runway overshoot

HALIFAX — The Halifax Stanfield International Airport has resumed normal operations a… Continue reading

Bentley family left without a home grateful for community support

Central Albertans are coming together to support a Bentley family left homeless… Continue reading

Red Deer RCMP ready for new mandatory alcohol screening law

Red Deer RCMP are ready to enforce a new law intended to… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer and District Kennel Club Dog Show at Westerner Park

The Red Deer and District Kennel Club is holding a dog show… Continue reading

Pence aide out of running to be Trump’s next chief of staff

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s top pick to replace chief of staff… Continue reading

Swath of South faces wintry mess: Snow, sleet, freezing rain

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A massive storm brought snow, sleet, and freezing rain… Continue reading

‘I killed my best friend’: Opioids’ fatal grip on mayor, pal

MOUNT CARBON, Pa. — Janel Firestone found her son — the 24-year-old,… Continue reading

Brothers, 20, face second-degree murder charge in death of teen: police

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Police west of Toronto say two brothers have been… Continue reading

A young mayor, his friend, and a fatal attraction to opioids

MOUNT CARBON, Pa. — Janel Firestone found her son — the 24-year-old,… Continue reading

GM fights to retain key tax credit amid plant closing plans

WASHINGTON — General Motors is fighting to retain a valuable tax credit… Continue reading

TTC union asks provincial government to step in on transition to Presto

TORONTO — The union representing transit workers in Canada’s most populous city… Continue reading

Small pot growers find roadblocks on path to microcultivation licences

Yan Boissonneault’s daughter was turning blue. Without warning, his baby had stopped… Continue reading

Most Read