lft logo rt

Back to the letters index

Pine beetles - friend or foe

Another view of the “beetle epidemic”

Janury 26, 2008

Does no one have anything good to say about the Mountain Pine Beetle? The logging companies want everyone to believe that this busy little bug is a threat to our forests. In fact, the only real threat is to company profits. The pine beetle is portrayed as an evil destructive menace when it’s actually doing us a big favour. It’s working very hard to ensure that we have healthy forests in the future. The job of the pine beetle is to accelerate the transfer of energy from sun to soil when a forest is under stress. In a forest of mature lodgepole, stress is usually a result of insufficient moisture which is most often related to drought. This is the situation at present. The beetle populations have exploded because we are experiencing drought conditions that reach all the way down to Brazil. The worst possible response to a beetle infestation is the “harvesting” of the trees. This opens the forest to more sunlight, increasing temperatures and further drying out the land. It also robs the soil of the nutrients needed for healthy regrowth. As we’ve seen in other parts of the world, this can turn forest land into desert. Logging requires roads which tend to interfere with natural drainage. This puts further stress on the forest, causing more trees to be attacked by pine beetles. Once again, the companies get the benefits while the beetles get the blame.