The mountain pine beetle threat has eased in southwestern Alberta.
The mountain pine beetle population has declined in this area, but the province won’t ease off on efforts to control the pest.
“If we’re not able to manage this thing in Alberta the pine forests across Canada are at risk,” Sustainable Resource Development Minister Mel Knight said.
The province has spent about $300-million on its efforts to control the mountain pine beetle and will put another $30-million toward the problem this year.
Alberta is also talking to other provinces and the federal government about helping fund control measures.
“The more we can invest at an early stage the better off we are,” Knight said.
Knight said the money spent to control the mountain pine beetle in Alberta is a worthwhile investment.
Knight said six million hectares of forest in Alberta, along with an $8.3-billion forest industry, is at risk from the beetle.
Alberta has plowed $300-million into mountain pine beetle control since 2006 and the federal government has chipped in $18.5-million.
The money has been well spent, Knight said.
“We feel like we’ve got a pretty good grip on managing this,” Knight said.
The mountain pine beetle emerges in mid July and flies to an older growth tree where it lays eggs.
The larvae over-winters under the bark of the pine tree and reaches pupa stage in June. The pine tree becomes the beetle’s food source.
The mountain pine beetle carries Blue Star Fungus, which closes off the vascular system of the tree.
From May to mid-June officials visited 249 sites in Alberta forests to sample 1,624 trees.
Four samples of bark each four inches in diameter were taken from each tree and used to determine the number of live and dead insects.
The samples helped scientists determine how many mountain pine beetle eggs survived the winter, and how many hatched and grew into beetles.
In southwestern Alberta a low number of beetles survived the winter and the population is declining.
In central Alberta an average population of mountain pine beetles is projected, while in northwestern Alberta the beetle numbers are expected to climb.
All areas of Alberta are at risk of mountain pine beetles moving across the Rockies from B.C.
“What we have here is a good news, bad news story,” Knight said. “The plan that we’ve had in place has been relatively successful.”