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By Sydney Goward on August 22 2016
Our forests are constantly fighting for their survival. Each and every tree will be subjected to competition, pathogens, harsh environments, and pests over its lifetime. I’m sure you’ve all heard of the mountain pine beetle and the immediate effects that the epidemic in BC had on our forests, but did you know that every species of tree has its own unique insect/pest, and some species of pests attack more than one species of tree? A large part of my job (every Friday actually) consists of helping to control these attacks, and it’s pretty interesting!
Our main focus in the Williams Lake area is working to control the current outbreak of Interior Douglas Fir Bark Beetle, Dendroctonus pseudotsugae, or IBD for short. In June, I attended a one day course with West Fraser on how to identify the beetle, its lifecycle, how/when it attacks the trees, etc. We had a big field portion where we ventured into one of the community forests in town to practice “probing” the stand for beetles. Probing is basically searching each tree for signs of current and past attack of bark beetles in general, and then marking the trees with spray paint as clean or infected. It is important to keep track of the infected trees and deal with them appropriately (most likely harvesting or burning) in order to prevent the spread.
West Fraser has many beetle projects underway for controlling them and this can be done through a variety of methods. I was involved with the funnel trap project this summer. A funnel trap is a series of connected funnels, about 1.5 meters long, that has a small cup attached at the bottom. These traps are baited with pheromones and hung in specially identified areas. Beetles have a great sense of smell but can’t see very well. They are attracted to the traps which look like dark cylindrical tree stems to them. They land, and try to bore into bark but end up just falling down into the cup, unable to get back out. West Fraser has us checking these traps once per week, emptying the cups into ziplock bags. The beetles are later disposed of. The purpose of a funnel trap is to secure the current attack beetles in a controlled space where we can exterminate them and keep them out of the trees. We trapped trees in three major areas, Buxton, Mackin Creek, and Dash Creek. All the summer students were responsible for these traps, and we always split up into pairs and get all three sets done every Friday.
These cups can sure get stinky, especially after it rains. The smell is actually so strong that we have an issue with bears finding the traps and ripping them down and chewing them up so they can lick out the bugs. This has been a really interesting component to the Friday trap days, as we get to see how creative and clever the bears are in destroying some of our traps. We are often replacing cups and parts of the funnels due to large tooth marks. At one of our trap locations, Dash Creek, I actually saw 4 bears in one day and had my first run-in with a grizzly in the field! I’ll be talking about that one later on along with all my other bear encounters, so watch out for the story coming soon! The most important thing with the traps is that the beetles are taken out of the stand, so whether I have them in a bag or a bear has them in his belly, everyone is pretty happy.
If you guys have any questions on this, I’d love to hear them in the comments! Thanks for checking in!