Mountain pine beetle makes its way into Ponoka County

  • Jul. 11, 2019 11:30 a.m.

Assar Grinde has a special attachment to the pine trees that line the driveway to his mother’s home north of Rimbey.

The trees have been part of his family history for generations.

Needless to say, when he noticed the trees starting to turn yellow, he feared a mountain pine beetle infestation.

Unfortunately, his worst fears have been realized, and he has discovered several of the trees to be infected with the insects.

“I won’t be planting any more pine trees,” said the young farmer, who lives about six miles north of Rimbey.

According to information on Wetaskiwin County’s website, mountain pine beetles attack and kill pine trees, usually mature ones aged 80 to 120 years old. All species of pine, including lodgepole, jack pine, Scots pine and ponderosa pine, are vulnerable.

Last summer, the Alder Flats, Winfield, Buck Lake, Pigeon Lake and a location west of Wetaskiwin experienced an inflight of mountain pine beetles, the most destructive insect pest of the lodgepole pine forest, the website states.

Ponoka County agricultural fieldman Justin Babcock said he has recently been made aware of a few instances of pine beetle infestation in the county. He said there had been no reports previously.

“It’s a learning curve,” he said. “We are on alert and will probably hold an information meeting in the fall.”

The mountain pine beetle is a small, black insect about the size of a grain of rice. Beetles fly in search of new trees in July and August.

Once a beetle has found a suitable tree, it will live in that tree for the remainder of its life and lay eggs.

The new generation of beetles will not emerge from the tree for at least a year. Trees attacked by mountain pine beetles usually die within one year.

Creamy globs that look like crystallized honey, called pitch tubes, and sawdust at the base of the trunk and in the bark’s crevices are indications that the tree has been attacked by pine beetles.

Wetaskiwin County’s website states that anyone who has infested trees should wrap survey tape around the infected specimen.

It is recommended that a tree with more than 40 pitch tubes be removed. In winter, trees can be sold and taken to sawmills and debarked on the site.

Hiring an arborist with a chipper or burning the attacked trees are other options.

Earlier this year, Wetaskiwin County sold pheremone pouches to residents in an attempt to combat the infestation.

The pouches contain a synthetically produced substance called verbenone, which repels newly arriving beetles. The county is now sold out of the pouches.

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