Managing the Mountain Pine Beetle in Canada’s Forests

by TyeRusnak on October 6, 2016 - 10:31am

       In a recent article in the Mountain View Gazette, author Peter Shokeir states that the mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) has been a well known pest in Alberta since their mass migration from British Columbia over the rocky mountains in 2006. Since this migration, Alberta’s forests have been intensely managed to protect the mountain pine beetle’s target tree, the lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta). This bark-boring beetle destroys it’s host tree by laying eggs under the bark, eventually killing the tree by cutting off the nutrients it needs to survive. Shokeir says that since 2011, Alberta has spent over $4 million to control the spread of the beetle, saving around 47 million trees. If the beetle was left unmanaged over this time period, there could have destroyed 6 million hectares of forest valued at approximately $8 billion. This nuisance is now being known to adapt to using jack pine (Pinus banksiana) as a host species. Peter Shokeir then explains that this adaptation, along with climate change creates more habitable areas for the beetle thus posing more environmental and economic impacts in Alberta. 

       The mountain pine beetle has been affecting western Canada’s forests for nearly two decades. In British Columbia alone, 675 million cubic metres (50%) of commercial pine forest was destroyed by the beetle between 1998 and 2009 (Government of Canada 2016). This clearly shows that without proper management the beetle can cause major environmental and economic impacts. The beetle’s primary host tree is currently known as the lodgepole pine, which is native to western Canada’s forests. However, with the transition to the beetle using jack pine as a host tree, this allows the species to expand it’s range to the east (Ritz et al. 2014). This poses a threat to Canada’s massive boreal forest as explained in a recent study by Burke and Carroll (2016). Burke and Carroll (2016) found that with this host shift, in conjunction with warming temperatures, the mountain pine beetle could very well move through the boreal forest destroying millions of jack pine trees along the way. 

       With our knowledge of this species, through history and science, it is obvious that we are able to calculate the risk of the situation. I believe that this threat should bring rise to management policies that would be introduced by the state so that the pine species in the boreal forest are protected. The flow resource of timber needs to be protected due to the boreal forests value to the economy and the environment. Policies would aid in establishing sustainable resource development throughout the boreal forest and would keep the mountain pine beetle invasion to a minimum. 




       Burke, J. L. and Carroll, A. L. (2016). The influence of variation in host tree monoterpene composition on secondary attraction by an invasive bark beetle: Implications for range expansion and potential host shift by the mountain pine beetle. Forest Ecology and Management, 359, 59-64

       Government of Canada. (2016). Forest Economic Impacts. Natural Resources Canada. Retrieved from

       Ritz, A., Schmidt, E. and Lo Curto, D. (2014). Retrieved from

       Shokeir, P. (2016, September 13). West Central Alberta spared ongoing mountain pine beetle infestation. Mountain View Gazette. Retrieved from

About the author

University of Guelph
Environment and Resource Management