Cold snaps could be key to curbing insect infestation
A new computer simulation program could soon be used to help battle the mountain pine beetle infestations plaguing the province.
Barry Cooke of the Canadian Forest Service has been studying the tiny insects and their survival rate in relation to severe weather in Alberta’s harsh winters.
He discovered that a cold snap in November 2006 killed more than 90 per cent of one Alberta colony, and believes a new computer model being tested by the forestry service could soon assist in predicting how colonies would survive, based on winter weather in a particular region.
“It’s really exciting for the province because it means that, on a daily basis, when they get a cold snap, they can plug these numbers into our simulation model and it will tell them how likely it is to see 50 or 60, or 80 per cent die,” Cooke said.
While pine beetles typically die when temperatures dip below -30 C for extended periods, finding accurate results in the past has proved difficult, he said. The insects have a mortality rate that changes depending on when a cold snap hits and for how long.
The completed results from the simulation program are expected by September.
Three million trees have now been infected with the tiny insects — up significantly from 19,000 trees in 2006.