It's supposed to be a long, cold and nasty winter this year if you believe the Farmer's Almanac. That's just what Alberta Forestry officials are hoping for.
The battle against Mountain Pine Beetle has been a long one. Our mild winters over the past few years have allowed the Mountain Pine Beetle population in the province to rise and become harder to manage.
Mountain Pine Beetle is a species of Bark Beetles, that unlike the rest of their creepy-crawly family, target healthy trees in our forests and have damaging effects on overall forest health.
Caroline Whitehouse is a Forest Health Specialist with Alberta Forestry and she says the recent cold has most likely done some good, but it still needs to get colder, and it needs to stick around.
"It definitely would have caused a certain amount of mortality in the population." Whitehouse adds "The effect is also variable depending on the population numbers themselves." This means in areas like northern Alberta the numbers might not change all that much, however here in the south and more specifically the K Country region could see Beetle Larvae mortality increase over the winter.
Whitehouse says for the cold weather to really help out it would need to get as cold as -35 and below as the Mountain Pine Beetles actually create and produce their own antifreeze to survive harsh winters.
"They survive by producing and storing a natural antifreeze, and it's this antifreeze that helps to keep the larvae (that's the life form that beetles spend the winter in) alive."
The beetles are known to start producing their natural antifreeze in late fall and hit their peak cold tolerance in January. This means the cold weather would really have to last until Feb. or Mar. to make a big impact.
Kananaskis Country and forests all over southern Alberta have always had Mountain Pine Beetles in some numbers, but the biggest problem is the growing numbers in forests to the North.
The next time the temperature dips and you need a silver lining, think of the Pine Beetles creeping and crawling and then be thankful for our winter!
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