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Climate Change Forces Mountain Pine Beetle to Migrate to the Pacific Northwest

Mountain Pine Beetle

Climate change impacts more than just polar bears and ocean animals; it’s also causing insects like the mountain pine beetle to migrate to new lands. Commercial pest control services share that the beetle’s favorite food are pine trees, especially mature lodgepole pine trees. Consequently, coniferous trees throughout the Pacific Northwest have fallen victim to the hungry bugs.

About Mountain Pine Beetles

Mountain pine beetles are black beetles that are about the size of a grain of rice and live for one or two years. According to residential pest control experts, the beetles spend most of their life stages beneath the bark of a host tree and only emerge during the summer when they fly to a new host tree. 

Female mountain pine beetles initiate the attacks on new trees. As they chew into a tree, they release pheromones that attract other beetles to the same tree. Those beetles then attack the tree and release more pheromones. When a tree is too full of beetles, they release an anti-aggression pheromone that tells other beetles to seek a different tree.

The Problem

Usually, mountain pine beetles play an important role in the ecosystem as the feed on old or weak trees, and help speed the development of younger trees. The recent mild winters and hot, dry summers, however, have led to an unprecedented epidemic of the bug because warmer weather extends the breeding season.

The current outbreak throughout the Pacific Northwest and other western states is ten times larger than any previous outbreak. With a sense of urgency for pest control, Oregon forest and park rangers, and those in other states, fear that the dead pines present a wildfire hazards.

How to Protect Your Property

When it comes to the mountain pine beetle and pest control, Washington and Oregon residential and commercial landscapes aren’t immune to an infestation. Residential pest control experts offer the following tips to help keep these pests at bay:

  • Keep your pine trees hydrated. Trees that have plenty of water produce more sap, which repel the beetles and help them recover if attacked.
  • Remove and destroy an infested tree before June 1. Tree removal can prevent the spread of an infestation, especially when the beetles look for new trees to attack in July and August.
  • Inspect firewood before introducing it onto your property. Mountain pine beetles can survive in infested firewood.
  • Use pheromone repellents called verbenone. Verbenone is the anti-aggression pheromone that tells mountain pine beetles that a tree is too full of bugs. By attaching one or two liquid pouches of verbenone to a tree trunk, you can trick the beetles into looking elsewhere for a host. The best time to use the pouches is at the end of June.

If you think that you have a mountain pine beetle infestation in one or more of your trees, don’t play the waiting game. Call a local pest control service. The experts will inspect your trees and recommend an action and prevention plan.

[ Photo by: Simon Fraser University…, on Flickr, via CC License ]

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