Bark beetles

Bark beetles are a natural disturbance agent in B.C. forests that can cause widespread mortality to mature forests during outbreaks. 

Bark beetles are small, cylindrical insects that can attack and kill trees by boring through the bark and mining the phloem (the layer between the bark and wood) of a tree.

On this page:

Provincial bark beetle response

Recent changes to climate and weather patterns have resulted in conditions that allow for bark beetle populations to increase beyond the historical range and severity. High overwintering survival, in combination with warmer summer and fall minimum temperatures, allow insects more time to grow and develop. These conditions result in multiple robust bark beetle populations throughout the province.

Bark beetles are a high priority issue for forest health management in British Columbia. The Province conducts an annual Aerial Overview Survey (AOS) to detect the extent and severity of forest health factors. The AOS summary report tracks the areas and severity of bark beetle damage each year. The provincial bark beetle response is based on a science-based conceptual strategy.

Actions of the bark beetle response

To advance the conceptual strategy, the province’s response to bark beetles in B.C. includes the following:

  • A science-based approach to pest management in forest ecosystems
  • Consistent, updated tools and resources for mitigation measures
  • Collaborative and effective local planning and implementation of mitigation measures and investments
  • Innovative and collaborative research to improve provincial response and to address information gaps

The goals of the Ministry’s response to bark beetles are founded in B.C.’s forest policy.

  • reconciliation with First Nations
  • maintain or enhance forest ecosystem function and diversity
  • ensure a sustainable and diverse forest industry
  • invest in ecosystem function and diversity to enhance resilience in second growth stands
  • open and transparent communication of issues, ideas, and solutions for future forest health in BC

Major bark beetle species in B.C.

There are many species of bark beetles in B.C and they all differ in biology and behaviour. Only four of these species pose significant forest health concerns and have management regimes developed for them: mountain pine beetle, spruce beetle, Douglas-fir beetle and western balsam bark beetle.

Mountain pine beetle

Mountain pine beetle attack most pine species in B.C., preferring lodgepole pine, ponderosa pine, whitebark pine, and white pine trees. Mountain pine beetles predominantly have a one-year life cycle with adults emerging in July and August to attack new trees.

Learn more about the Mountain pine beetle

Spruce beetle

Spruce beetle attack spruce species in B.C., preferring Englemann spruce, white spruce and Sitka spruce trees. Spruce beetle predominantly have a two-year life cycle but may also have a one-year life cycle under ideal conditions. Adults emerge in late May to July to attack new trees.

Learn more about the Spruce beetle

Douglas-Fir beetle

​Douglas-Fir beetle attack primarily Douglas-fir trees. These beetles have a one-year life cycle with adults  emerging from April through June to attack new trees. 

Learn more about the ​Douglas-Fir beetle

Western balsam bark beetle

Western balsam bark beetle attack mature true firs, particularly subalpine fir. These beetles have a two-year life cycle. Adult beetles emerge between mid-June to mid-August and fly to attack new trees.

Learn more about the Western balsam bark beetle