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Pine beetle invasion still on

Monday, February 1st, 2010 | 1:30 pm

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John McDonald

By John McDonald

Opinion

Even though last summer’s fires are out, there’s some other natural threats which haven’t gone away, and in fact, are gaining new traction.

The pine beetle, its progress slowed by recent cooler winters, and new threat to Kelowna’s tree canopy, the tussock moth, are both set to explode in population, threatening over half the trees in Kelowna.

And while nobody is likely to lose their home or life over it (unless a dead tree falls over on a house) there is the potential for some homeowners to have to pay thousands to have dead trees removed from their yards.

Unlike wildfire, there is no way for homeowners to recoup that money as there is no insurance or currently any disaster relief fund to cover those costs.

“In the future, that could become a problem” agrees Blair Stewart, an urban forest technician with the City of Kelowna, who says modeling done by government entomologists predicts a large-scale die-off of pine-beetle bitten trees in the valley could begin as early as 2013.

The tussock moth goes after the Douglas fir, the most common member within Kelowna’s tree canopy of 3.3 million trees, and while not as lethal as the pine beetle, still has the potential to kill hundreds of thousands of trees.

Once the beetle or moth-bitten trees begin to die, they have about 18 months on average before they turn into dangerous snags and begin to fall over.

The only solution is to bring in a tree removal company and at current rates, large trees can cost $1,000 each to remove.

“There is nothing designed as far as funding for private properties,” he added. “There was some two or three years ago, but I believe those were cut.”

Stewart says the pine beetle invasion was slowed by recent cold winters in 2008/09 and 2007/08, but that surveys recently conducted by crews on city-owned park land show are showing a surge of the insects after last summer and this winter, both drier than normal with above average temperatures.

Some severe tussock moth infestations have recently been found in the north part of the city. The aggressive moth is cyclical, appearing every seven to 10 years, killing fir trees by stripping them of their needles and leaving them with a scorched look.

This almost 60 per cent of the tree canopy in the Central Okanagan, mostly on private land, vulnerable to the coming swarms. “Every tree has its threat,” Stewart said, ruefully.

He says the inventory of trees, completed two summers ago, shows 33 per cent of the tree canopy in the area is Douglas fir with another 24 per cent ponderosa pine.

Both tree species can grow to be as much 70 metres high. Such huge trees require cranes and professional arborists to remove, costing thousands of dollars.

The City of Kelowna has been constantly removing infected pine trees from both Knox Mountain Park and Dilworth Mountain, the two most heavily treed areas owned by the city, as well as other city-owned parks and land tracts, but private property owners are on their own.

And while most will do the right thing and pay to have the dead trees removed, there will be some who refuse to do it, or simply can’t afford it, setting up the possibility of confrontations between neighbours and the need for city bylaw officers to force compliance.

“The homeowners is responsible for getting them down. There is a bylaw that covers dangerous trees,” said Ian Wilson, the city’s parks services manager. “I’m not sure if that would be sufficient or if a new bylaw is required.”

Because many of the yards with pines and fir trees are on the mountain slopes and benches in the more expensive parts of town, there is likely to be little sympathy from others about what will be seen as a rich man’s burden.

john@kelowna.com

250-575-0521

Pine beetle invasion still on5.051

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2 Responses to “Pine beetle invasion still on”

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    John

    Great article.
    We saw a large infestation of tussock Moth in Kamloops last year. We treated the infested trees with great success allowing homeowners to save the cost of removal and sustain their living trees. Kamloops has a program implemented using a virus that slowly kills the population, with emphasis on slowly. Our treatment is instantaneous and protects the trees instantly. We have been treating Pines for Pine beetle attack in the Okanogan as well and are loosing almost no trees in highly infested areas. Thompson Rivers University looked like and island of green trees in a sea of red because they protected their trees. The product used on the trees neutralizes very rapidly when it touches anything but the bark and so has no lasting imprint in the environment.
    I just felt it would be good to let your readers know that there actually is a simple solution to save their individual trees. For around 30 dollars per tree you could ‘ride out the storm’ . The results are instantly noticeable. We have treated trees in Kelowna for 4 years now and our local applicators and customers are excited to see the positive results. Thanks for this article John. One ounce of prevention is a preventable pound of cure.
    Sincerely Menno

  2. Wayne Wasiliew says:
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    It would be great to see the city pf Kelowna to create a bylaw, similar to the one used to manage the cottling moth in apple orchards, where by an owner of a Lodgepole pine tree must apply measures to ensure that beetle attacked trees are managed. It would also be a very worthy project to fund until consistent measures are in place to track the progress of the mountain pine beetle on private city lands.

    Wayne Wasiliew, RPF

    Please continue discussion on the forum: link

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