Spruce beetle outbreaks occur throughout B.C. and usually last up to seven or eight years.
These insects are native to our province and they normally feed on the inner bark of weakened or fallen trees. However, spruce beetles are quite capable of killing healthy trees under the right conditions.
Warm springs, dry summers and mild winters all conspire to increase beetle populations.
Unfortunately this year appears to be shaping up for a serious infestation and perhaps the worst since the 1980s.
The latest aerial survey reveals nearly double the presence of spruce beetle across the province.
To make matters worse, it is hard to detect infested trees because they do not display any signs of distress until 13 to 15 months after being successfully attacked.
This makes the challenge of detection and containment even more difficult.
In a region like ours that has already been devastated by last summer’s wildfires and other infestations from pine and Douglas fir beetle, this is yet another blow to our forest industry.
Once again we are at odds with our largest customer for B.C. wood products, and there is no resolution in sight for the softwood lumber dispute.
But this does not mean we should sit idle and hope for the best.
The previous Liberal government allocated an additional $1 million to the ministry’s annual $850,000 budget to detect spruce beetle. We also adopted aggressive control tactics such as helicopter logging in steep and remote areas that lie at the epicentre of the current outbreak.
The Legislature will be starting up in a few weeks, so I will be sure to call on the current government to follow-up with even more aggressive action to control and contain the spread of spruce beetle.
Donna Barnett is the Liberal MLA for the Cariboo-Chilcotin.