Most people do not dream about a life in Alaska, as this state is not often considered a paradise. However, if you were hardpressed to name one benefit of living in Alaska you may mention a lack of insect pests. While it is true that southern states certainly see more insect pests, Alaska is not entirely free of them. Devastating insect pests like termites are not much of a problem in Alaska, but some insect pests can still be damaging to the natural environment. The spruce beetle, for example, causes a significant amount of tree deaths in the state. This beetle kills more spruce trees than any other insect. Spruce trees are killed by spruce beetles from areas as far south as Arizona, but the population of spruce trees is particularly high in Alaska. The spruce beetle is just one of many insect pests that exist in Alaska, so the state is by no means free of damaging insect pests.

In just the past seven years, nearly two and a half acres of Alaskan spruce forests have become infested by spruce beetles. At the height of the outbreak over thirty million spruce trees were killed per year in Alaska. In American states that lie south of Alaska, economic costs of spruce beetle activity has not been as substantial as losses in the state of Alaska. In Arizona, the loss of spruce trees has cost more than one hundred million dollars during the past twenty five years. However, in Alaska the amount of spruce tree loss caused by spruce beetles has cost at least two billion dollars in that same amount of time.

Spruce beetles can thwart the development of trees, resulting in trees with reduced diameters and heights. Discoloration does not usually occur on the needles of spruce trees, so infected trees are not always easy to detect until they have become significantly damaged by spruce beetles. Also, spruce beetles are tiny creatures that cannot be spotted with the naked eye. When forestry officials attempt to identify trees that have become infested with spruce beetles, they are forced to spot the subtle symptoms of initial spruce beetle damage with careful observation. In all other cases, it takes microscopic devices to spot individual spruce beetles. Spruce beetle management is not an easy process, but removing dead spruce material from forests is just one way to prevent tree damage caused by spruce beetles.


Do you think that spruce beetles threaten the existence of spruce trees more so than humans?


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