Mountain Pine Beetle

collected in 1989
Scientific Name:
Dendroctonus ponderosae

This habitat-altering species is having a massive impact on the economy of British Columbia, killing an estimated 710 cubic metres of timber since the current infestation began, and affecting more than 18 million hectares.

Native to western North America, the Mountain Pine Beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae, has been eating pines for millennia. Normally, it plays an important role in the life of a forest by attacking old or weakened trees, which encourages the development of new forests. However, many years of fire suppression in the province encouraged the survival of forests full of old Lodgepole Pines – exactly what Mountain Pine Beetle prefers.

When the beetles lay their eggs under the bark of a tree, they send out a message to others to do the same, so that the tree is attacked by many individuals at once. A healthy tree can often “pitch out” these attackers if there are not too many, and if the tree has ample moisture.

Climate change has meant warmer, drier summers and milder winters, increasing the trees’ vulnerability, and helping to maintain large beetle populations. Combining an abundant food supply with increased survivorship has resulted in an insect epidemic.

This object selected by Claudia Copley.