Mountain pine beetle
The mountain pine beetle (MPB), Dendroctonus ponderosae, is a species of bark beetle native to the forests of western North America from Mexico to central British Columbia. It has a hard black exoskeleton and measures about 5 millimeters, about the size of a grain of rice.
Mountain pine beetles inhabit ponderosa, lodgepole, Scots and limber pine trees. Normally these insects play an important role in the life of a forest, attacking old or weakened trees, and speeding development of a younger forest. However, unusual hot, dry summers and mild winters in central British Columbia during the last few years, along with forests filled with mature lodgepole pine, have led to an unprecedented epidemic. 
It may be the largest forest insect blight ever seen in North America. Climate change has contributed to the size and severity of the outbreak, and the outbreak itself may, with similar infestations, have significant effects on the capability of northern forests to remove greenhouse gas from the atmosphere.
Mountain pine beetles affect pine trees by laying eggs under the bark. The beetles introduce a blue stain fungi into the sapwood that prevents the tree from repelling and killing the attacking beetles with tree pitch flow. The fungus also blocks water and nutrient translocation within the tree. On the tree exterior, this results in popcorn-shaped masses of resin called "pitch tubes" where the beetles have entered. The joint action of larval feeding and fungal colonization kills the host tree within a few weeks of successful attack (the fungus and feeding by the larvae girdles the tree cutting off the flow of water and nutrients). When the tree is first attacked, it remains green. Usually within a year of attack, the needles will have turned red. This means the tree is dying or dead and the beetles have moved to another tree. In three to four years after the attack very little foliage is left so the trees appear grey. 
As beetle populations increase or more trees become stressed because of drought or other causes, the population may quickly increase and spread. Healthy trees are then attacked and huge areas of mature pine stands may be threatened or killed. Warm summers and mild winters play a role in both insect survival and the continuation and intensification of an outbreak. Adverse weather conditions (such as winter lows of -40°C) can reduce the beetle populations and slow the spread, but the insects can recover quickly and resume their attack on otherwise healthy forests.
Beetles develop through four stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult. Except for a few days during the summer when adults emerge from brood trees and fly to attack new host trees, all life stages are spent beneath the bark. 
In low elevation stands and in warm years, mountain pine beetles require one year to complete a generation. At high elevations, where summers are typically cooler, life cycles may vary from one to two years.
Female beetles initiate attacks. As they chew into the inner bark and phloem, pheromones are released, attracting male and female beetles to the same tree. The attacking beetles produce more pheromones, resulting in a mass attack that overcomes the tree’s defences, and resulting in attacks on adjacent trees.
Management techniques include harvesting at the leading edges of what is known as “green attack,” as well as other techniques that can be used to manage infestations on a smaller scale, including: 
- Pheromone baiting - luring beetles into trees that have been ‘baited’ with a synthetic hormone that mimics the scent of a female beetle. Beetles can then be contained in a single area, where they can more easily be destroyed.
- Sanitation harvesting - removing single infested trees to control the spread of beetle populations to other areas.
- Snip and skid - removing groups of infested trees that are scattered over a large area.
- Controlled, or mosaic, burns - burning an area where infested trees are concentrated, to reduce high beetle infestations in the area or to help reduce the fire hazard in an area.
- Fall and burn - cutting (felling) and burning beetle-infested trees to prevent the spread of beetle populations to other areas. This is usually done in winter, to reduce the risk of starting forest fires.
The US Forest Service tested chitosan, a eco-friendly biopesticide, to pre-arm pine trees to defend themselves against MPB. The US Forest Service results show AgriHouse's EPA registered ODC Collodial Chitosan elicited a 40% increase in pine resin (P<0.05) in Southern Pine Trees. One ml ODC chitosan per 10 gallons water was applied to the ground area within the drip ring of the loblolly pine tree. The ODC chitosan application was repeated three times from May through September in 2008. The ODC chitosan was responsible for eliciting natural defense responses of increased resin pitch-outs with the ability to destroy 37% of the pine beetle eggs. Dr. Jim Linden, Microbiologist, Colorado State University, states that the chitosan increased resin pitch-outs push the boring pine beetle out of the tree, preventing the MPB from entering the pine tree and spreading blue stain mold.
Aggressively searching out, removing, and destroying the brood in infested trees is the best way to slow the spread of mountain pine beetlesMPB; however, it may not protect specific trees. Spraying trees to prevent attack is the most effective way to protect a small number of high-value trees from mountain pine beetle. Carbaryl (Sevin SL and XLR, and others), Permethrin (Astro, Dragnet, and others) and, bifenthrin (Onyx)are registered in the United StatesUSA for use in the prevention of pine beetle infestations. Carbaryl is considered by the EPA to likely be carcinogenic to humans. It is moderately toxic to wild birds and partially to highly toxic to aquatic organisms. Permethrin is easily metabolized in mammalian livers so is less dangerous to humans. Birds are also practically not affected by permethrin. Negative effects can be seen in aquatic ecosystems as well as very toxic to other beneficial insects. Bifenthrin is moderately dangerous to mammals including humans. Bifenthrin is slightly more toxic to birds and aquatic ecosystems than permethrin, as well as extremely toxic to other beneficial insects.
Spraying is very effective at protecting the pines but is not recommended for large-scale use due to ecological and financial reasons. Pines should be sprayed before the beetle flight in July, so May or June will yield the best results. You can spray your own trees but this requires a great deal of spraying equipment and safety equipment. A licensed applicator is highly recommended.
Verbenone is the main compound for the anti-aggregate pheromone for the mountain pine beetle. This compound is produced by 3 companies: Contech, Synergy Semiochemicals Corp, and Hercon Environmental. Verbenone is a behavior modifying pheromone that tricks the pine beetle into believing that the tree is no longer useful to more beetles and they will leave the tree alone. Verbenone is useful in campsites and places close to creeks and rivers where spraying cannot be used. Verbenone does not kill the insects it simply pushes them away to another tree or area. It has been pretty successful in areas with low beetle populations but has not been very successful in areas with higher populations. Verbenone is only useful in small-scale operations.
Current information indicates wood from beetle-affected trees will retain its commercial value for eight to 12 years after the tree has died. This so-called ‘shelf life’ is dependent on a number of factors, including economic and stand site conditions. The trees remain commercially viable longer under drier conditions. In areas where it is wetter, the trees tend to rot at the base and fall faster, especially if they are larger.  The blue stain fungus has no effect on the wood’s strength properties. The timber can be used for anything from standard framing lumber to engineered wood products such as glue-laminated (glulam) products andf cross-laminated panels. The epidemic in British Columbia is creating opportunities the emerging bioenergy industry
The current outbreak of mountain pine beetles is ten times larger than previous outbreaks. Huge swaths of central British Columbia and parts of Alberta have been hit badly, with over 40 million acres (160,000 km2) of BC's forests affected. The large areas of dead pine stands represent a potential fire hazard so the British Columbia government is directing fuel management activities in beetle areas as recommended in the 2003 Firestorm Provincial Review.  Harvesting affected stands aids fire management by removing the hazard and breaking the continuity of the fuels. These fuel management treatments are specifically designed to reduce interface fire threats to communities and First Nations located in the infestation zone. The interface is the area where urban development and wilderness meet.
The mountain pine beetle has impacted more than 900 miles of trail, 3,200 miles of road and 21,000 acres of developed recreation sites over 3.6 million acres in Colorado and southeastern Wyoming. The US Forest Service is working on a hazard tree removal strategy prioritizing high-use recreation areas such as campgrounds, roads and National Forest Service lands adjacent to vulnerable public infrastructure such as power lines and near communities. 
A lodgepole pine tree with a pitch tube.
A lodgepole pine tree infested by the mountain pine beetle, with visible pitch tubes.
A pine tree forest north of Breckenridge, CO showing infestation in 2008. Currently, over 15 million hectares are either infected or destroyed by the mountain pine beetle.
Effect on carbon cycle
Researchers from the Canadian Forest Service have studied the relationship between the carbon cycle and forest fires, logging and tree deaths. They concluded that by 2020 the pine beetle outbreak will have released 270 megatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from Canadian forests. There is yet to be an accepted study of the carbon cycle effect over a future period of time for North American forests.
Biofuel/Alternative Energy Production from Beetle Killed Trees
The huge number of beetle-killed trees poses a substantial risk of devastating forest fires. Forest thinning to mitigate fire danger is expensive and resource-intensive (Kumar 2009). Attention is turning to ways to turn this liability into a source of cellulosic biofuels.
Leaders in western U.S. states and Canadian provinces have promoted legislation to provide incentives for companies using beetle-killed trees for biofuel or bio-power applications. Sellable commodities resulting from Mountain Pine Beetle damage can help subsidize the cost of forest thinning projects and support new job markets. Colorado's Department of Energy recently provided $30 million toward construction of the state's first cellulosic ethanol plant, to convert beetle kill into ethanol. Lignin, a byproduct of the process, can be sold for applications in lubricants and other goods (MacLachlan).
- Community Economic Diversification Initiative (CEDI) an important component of Federal Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB) Program provided by Western Economic Diversification Canada
- US Forest Service
|Wikispecies has information related to: Mountain pine beetle|
- ^ Natural Resources Canada Mountain Pine Beetle
- ^ Petit, Charles (2007-01-30). "In the Rockies, Pines Die and Bears Feel It". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/30/science/30bear.html?ref=science. Retrieved 2009-02-09.
- ^ "Mountain pine beetle and forest carbon feedback to climate change". 2008-04-24. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v452/n7190/abs/nature06777.html. Retrieved 2009-07-16.
- ^ Colorado State University Fact Sheet: Mountain Pine Beetle
- ^ Natural Resources Canada Mountain Pine Beetle
- ^ US Forest Service Forest Insect and Disease Leaflet Mountain Pine Beetle
- ^ Government of British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Mines and Natural Resource Operations
- ^ Mason, M. (1997), Defense Response in Slash Pine: Chitosan Treatment Alters the Abundance of Specific mRNAs, US Forest Service, http://www.treesearch.fs.fed.us/pubs/5322
- ^ Klepzig, K. (2003), Cellular response of loblolly pine to wound inoculation with bark beetle-associated fungi and chitosan, US Forest Service, http://www.treesearch.fs.fed.us/pubs/5322
- ^ O'Toole, Erin (2009-09-10). "Solution for Pine Bark Beetles May Help Front Range Trees". NPR Morning Edition - KUNC 91.5 FM Greeley, CO. http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/kunc/news.newsmain/article/1/0/1552856/Regional/Solution.for.Pine.Bark.Beetles.May.Help.Front.Range.Trees.
- ^ Porter, Steve (2009-09-11). "Arming trees against pine beetle invasions". Northern Colorado Business Report. http://ncbr.com/article.asp?id=102064.
- ^ Colorado State University Spraying Trees to Protect Against Mountain Pine Beetle: Common Questions for Landowners to Consider
- ^ http://www.csfs.colostate.edu/pages/documents/Thoughts_on_spraying_trees-version2_final_April_2009.pdf
- ^ http://www.csfs.colostate.edu/pages/documents/Thoughts_about_Verbenone_April_2009.pdf
- ^ Naturally:wood
- ^ a b "Beetles may doom Canada's carbon reduction target: study". 2008-04-23. http://www.terradaily.com/reports/Beetles_may_doom_Canadas_carbon_reduction_target_study_999.html. Retrieved 2008-04-28.
- ^ "Mountain Pine Beetle - Ministry of Forests and Range - Province of British Columbia". http://www.for.gov.bc.ca/hfp/mountain_pine_beetle/facts.htm.
- ^ BC 2003 Firestorm Provincial Review
- ^ US Forest Service Rocky Mountain Bark Beetle Management
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Dendroctonus ponderosae|
- Death and Rebirth, Mountain Pine Beetle, Pesticides, Carcinogens, Cancer -David Chernoff, Manual For Living
- The Falldown Documentary- A look at the devastating impact of the beetle on British Columbia and Canada's Economy
- Trees targeted by beetle
- BC Pine Beetle Information Portal
- Canada's Forests Beetle Attack - The Economist
- Rocky Nat'l Park Fights Pine Beetles With Burner - CBS4Denver
- Deaths of trees 'catastrophic' - Rocky Mountain News
- Pherotech International, Mountain Pine Beetle and other Bark Beetle controls through use of Integrated Pest Management Plans
- Washington Post article: 'Rapid Warming' Spreads Havoc in Canada's Forests
- Natural Resources Canada site on the Mountain Pine Beetle
- Rocky Mountain pine beetle epidemic devastating to Colorado forests
- Detailed information from Alberta Forest Health about the mountain pine beetle's life cycle and what to look for in beetle infestations
- British Columbia Ministry of Forests and Range Library - Bibliography of Mountain Pine Beetle Publications
- British Columbia Forestry Ministry - Mountain Pine Beetle Action Plan, information and FAQ
- David Suzuki Foundation - Call for ecosystem-based management
- British Columbia Ministry of the Environment Mountain Pine Beetle FAQ
- BC MPB outbreak projection update w/ 2005 data
- Provincial aerial survey of MPB 2006
- Map of projected percentage of pine killed in British Columbia by 2012
- Genomics project on the three interacting organisms (beetle, fungus, and tree)
- Grande Alberta Economic Region's Mountain Pine Beetle pages
- Towards Transformation: The Economic, Social and Environmental Costs of the Mountain Pine Beetle in the Grande Alberta Economic Region
- Flickr MPB image pool
- The TRIA Project: Mountain Pine Beetle System Genomics
- DISPOSAL OF TREES AFFECTED BY THE PINE BEETLE: THE DILEMMA AND WHY AIR CURTAIN BURNERS SHOULD BE USED
- Non-profit organization, working in conjunction with universities, to develop new technologies using pine beetle kill for reclamation and energy needs
- Kumar A.. 2008. A conceptual comparison of bioenergy options for using mountain pine beetle infested wood in Western Canada. Bioresource Technology. [2008 July 9, cited 2008 April 2008] Vol. 100: 387-399.