Mountain Pine Beetle

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The Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic has become a major problem for North America in the last decade. While only the size of a grain of rice, the MPB has caused massive forest destruction in British Columbia as well as many parts of the United States. According to British Columbia’s government website (2012) “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 meters of timber since the current infestation began”. This damage doesn’t even include the More than 3.3 million forested acres in Colorado that have been affected by MPB since the current infestation began more than a decade ago. (Report on the Health of Colorado’s Forests). These aren’t the first outbreaks of the MBP though, and the beetle itself has been around for over 12,000 years. (D. Six n.d). There have been recorded outbreaks dating back to the 1920’s, but what makes this latest one so severe? (MBP Symp 2003) (p.43). The answer to this question is, a perfect mix of warmer winters, longer, drier summers, and larger, older pine stands.
The Mountain Pine Beetle adult has the ability to survive anywhere from -11 to -25 degrees Fahrenheit. (MBP Symp 2003) (p.27). It does so by producing a polyhydric alcohol in its blood. (Somme 1964) .The MPB needed this defense, as exposure to cold temperatures was its number one predator. (Safranyik 1978) (p.225). That being said, it has a tremendous adaptation for fighting the cold. This adaptation can only go so far, as the cold temperatures used to prevent the MPB from reaching higher elevations and spreading. This is no longer the case though, as Professor Ken Raffa (2012) explains “Warming temperatures have allowed tre...

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...1, 10.1139/z64-009

Safranyik, L. 1978. Effects of climate and weather on mountain pine beetle populations. Pages 79-86 in D.L. Kibbee, A.A. Berryman, G.D. Amman, and R.W. Stark, eds. Theory and practice of mountain pine beetle management in lodge-pole pine forests. Symp. Proc. ,Univ. Idaho, Moscow, ID.

Raffa 2012 Smith, R.H. (1963). Toxicity of pine resin vapors to three species of Dendroctonusvbark beetles. Journal of Economic Entomology 56: 827-831

Barnett, J. R. (2004). Langenheim, J.H. Plant resins: chemistry, evolution, ecology and ethnobotany. Annals Of Botany, 93(6), 784-785. doi:10.1093/aob/mch103

Reid, R.W. (1962). Biology of the mountain pine beetle, Dendroctonus monticolae
Hopkins, in the east Kootenay region of British Columbia. I. Life cycle, brood development and flight periods. The Canadian Entomologist 94: 531- 538

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