Mountain Pine Beetle v. California Fivespined Ips: DNR Facebook Fan Gets an Answer

Some of you may have noticed this little beetle gracing our Facebook fan page last week accompanied by the caption, “Chomp, chomp, chomp goes the unsightly, tiny beetle eating away at your ponderosa pines http://is.gd/Un0jyc

One of our Facebook fans quickly responded to the post with a great question that called us to dig up more info…

Jake wrote: “Is this the same beetle that has ravaged BC forests? Is there a plan to stop it?”

Two of DNR’s forest health experts, Karen and Glenn, bring us the answer:

No. This is not the same beetle species, although they are both “bark beetles” that affect pines.

BC has the “mountain pine beetle”. This beetle is also native to Washington and has always been in our forests. It causes some damage here every year in overcrowded ponderosa pine forests and older lodgepole pine forests. Washington had approximately 165,000 acres with some damage on them recorded in 2012 surveys, which pales in comparison to the millions and millions of acres in BC that have been affected by mountain pine beetle. Those Canadian forests were probably protected for decades by cold temperatures and short growing seasons, then the recent warmer conditions have caused those barriers to fall and the vulnerable trees got killed very quickly. Washington’s forests are mainly protected from this scale of damage because of a more diverse tree species mix.

The beetle referenced in our previous blog (California fivespined Ips) is a different bark beetle species that also attacks pines, primarily ponderosa. This beetle has not previously been known to occur in Washington, although it is considered native to California and Oregon. We’ve detected it as far north as Joint Base Lewis-McChord now. It probably is focused on trees that are weakened by something else like drought or snow-breakage wounds and may be moving north due to a favorable climate. It seems to be mostly confined to ponderosa pines that grow west of the Cascades and in relatively weak trees. Landowners in the Washington Gorge area are working to reduce populations by controlling the amount of dead host material created by fires, storms, etc. that the beetles breed in.

Jake’s question is one that a lot of readers probably have and we’re glad he’s interested. There is more information about many important insects and diseases that affect Washington’s forests (including sections on bark beetles) in DNR’s annual Forest Health Highlights Reports. The 2012 edition is being written now, but previous years’ reports are available. (There’s a list on the left side, about halfway down the main body of the page).

If you haven’t been over to our Facebook fan page yet, go check it out. It provides a great space for you to join the conversation about blogs and issues, as well as ask questions. We read every comment and work to answer your questions in a timely manner. We appreciate your support!

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