- Associated Press - Friday, December 8, 2017

KENAI, Alaska (AP) - The Kenai region experienced a resurgence of the spruce bark beetle this year, an insect with a history of causing tree deaths.

The region’s last outbreak of spruce bark beetles was in the late 1990s, the Peninsula Clarion reported Tuesday. The beetles bore through spruce bark to eat and lay eggs in the tree’s circulatory tissue.

The U.S Forest Service and Alaska Division of Forestry started running annual aerial surveys of damage caused by the beetle in the 1970s. And this year’s survey tallied the most damage since 1997, said Jason Moan, the state’s forest health program manager.

About 95 percent of that damage was in south-central Alaska, Moan said.

Former Fish and Wildlife Service ecologist Dr. Ed Berg said prior to the 1990s outbreak, the last major spike in spruce beetle population was in the late 1800s.

“It’s not a surprise at all - it’s just a matter of when,” said entomologist Matt Bowser of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. “This is a beetle that’s been here a long time. It’s not a new thing. This is one of the forest happenings we understand better than a lot of others - we know that all it takes is susceptible trees - a mature enough forest - and then runs of warm summers. If you have those things put together, you have at least the potential for an outbreak.”

The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge’s response to the natural event is “mostly hands-off,” Bowser said, aside from cutting down beetle-killed trees near roads and campgrounds.


Information from: (Kenai, Alaska) Peninsula Clarion, http://www.peninsulaclarion.com

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