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The western balsam bark beetle, Dryocoetes confusus (Coleoptera: Scolytidae), in association with the pathogenic fungus Ceratocystis dryocoetidis, has been responsible for the loss of millions of cubic metres of alpine fir, Abies lasiocarpa, in high-elevation stands throughout the interior of the province.
Infestations of D. confusus have been reported since comprehensive forest pest surveys began in the 1930s. Aerial surveys conducted during a major infestation between 1956 and 1965 estimated losses of 12 million m 3 of alpine fir in the Nass, Skeena and Telkwa river valleys of the Prince Rupert Region. During that period the western balsam bark beetle was the most destructive insect pest in the province. In the Kamloops Region, over 2 million m 3 of mortality was recorded between 1948 and 1991, mainly in the North Thompson drainage. In the Prince George Region, over 1 million m 3 of mortality has been recorded, primarily in the areas of Stuart and Takla lakes and Germanson Landing. Similar losses occurred in sub-alpine areas of the Nelson and Cariboo regions. Because of limited and sporadic aerial survey coverage of high-elevation and remote northern stands, however, these figures almost certainly underestimate real losses.
The depletion of low-elevation mature timber throughout the province has directed more attention toward the remaining high-elevation stands. The western balsam bark beetle is among the most important and yet little understood agents of mortality and resultant fiber loss in these stands.
For more information, see the Western Balsam Bark Beetle Forest Pest Leaflet in the Canadian Forest Service bookstore.