Beetle Facts

Beetle Biology

  • The Latin name for the mountain pine beetle is Dendroctonus ponderosae.
  • The life span of an individual mountain pine beetle is about one year.
  • Pine beetle larvae spend the winter under bark. They continue to feed in the spring and transform into pupae in June and July.
  • Adult mountain pine beetles emerge from an infested tree over the course of the summer and into early fall.
  • The mountain pine beetle transmits a fungus that stains a tree's sapwood blue.
  • Comprehensive testing has confirmed that the blue stain caused by the beetle has no effect on wood's strength properties.
  • Video clip on life cycle and infestation causes.Video

Infestation Information

  • The B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations estimates that the mountain pine beetle has now killed a cumulative total of 710 million cubic metres of timber since the current infestation began.
  • The cumulative area of B.C. affected to some degree (red-attack and grey-attack) is estimated at 18.1 million hectares.
    • 18.1 million hectares is more than five times the size of Vancouver Island.
    • Newly attacked lodgepole pine trees turn red about one year after infestation.  Trees can stay in the red-attack stage for two to four years before turning grey as they lose their needles.
  • On a provincial level, the infestation peaked in terms of volume killed annually in 2005 and has slowed considerably since then.
  • In terms of area, 4.6 million hectares of red-attack were surveyed in 2011.  This is compared to 7.8 million hectares and 6.3 million hectares in the two preceding years.
    • The amount of habitat available to the beetle has begun to diminish as the beetle has already attacked most of the mature lodgepole pine in the Central Plateau region.
    • The rate of spread in other areas of the Interior has been somewhat slowed by more diverse terrain and forests with a greater diversity of timber species.

Contributing Factors

  • The mountain pine beetle prefers mature timber. After 80 years, lodgepole pine trees are generally classed as being mature.
  • B.C. is believed to have three times more mature lodgepole pine than it did over 90 years ago, mainly because equipment and techniques for protecting forests against wildfire have greatly improved over time
  • Hot and dry summers leave pine drought-stressed and more susceptible to attack by the mountain pine beetle.

Beetles and Cold Weather

  • Cold weather kills the mountain pine beetle. Mountain pine beetle eggs, pupae and young larvae are the most susceptible to freezing temperatures.
  • In the winter, temperatures must consistently be below -35 Celsius or -40 Celsius for several straight days to kill off large portions of mountain pine beetle populations.
  • In the early fall or late spring, sustained temperatures of -25 Celsius can freeze mountain pine beetle populations to death.
  • A sudden cold snap is more lethal in the fall, before the mountain pine beetles are able to build up their natural anti-freeze (glycerol) levels.
  • Cold weather is also more effective before it snows. A deep layer of snow on the ground can help insulate mountain pine beetles in the lower part of the tree against outside temperatures.
  • Wind chill affects mountain pine beetles, but is usually not sustained long enough to significantly increase winter mortality.

Responding to the Epidemic