The mountain pine beetle outbreak is on the wane in the forests around West Kelowna, city council heard Tuesday.
Far fewer pine trees are succumbing to the beetle than was the case in the past, Westbank First Nation forester Dave Gill told council.
“The beetle will always be there, but it’s not in the numbers it was 10 years ago,” Gill said. “The worst of it is over, for sure.”
Coun. Rusty Ensign recalled that predictions once were that the beetle would be a long-term menace, and that it would take a hard winter with temperatures below -40 C to kill the insect.
Such assessments, Gill responded, were a “worst-case, sky-is-falling type of scenario.”
While the beetle may be dying out, there are still other hazards to trees in the forests around West Kelowna, Gill said.
One of them is a parasite called Douglas fir mistletoe. But where the pine beetle can kill a tree within a year from infestation, damage from this parasite is much more long term.
“Over time, it will kill a tree, but it will take 50 years,” Gill said. “So it’s a very different type of beast.”
Douglas fir mistletoe causes branches to swell and clump together, drawing too many of the tree’s nutrients and leaving other parts of it susceptible to other diseases.
The WFN has licences from the provincial government to log Crown land around West Kelowna. Such work, in addition to earning the band millions of dollars annually, also serves to lessen the risk of a wildfire sweeping into urban areas.
“Thank you for the work you do in and around West Kelowna on fire mitigation,” West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater told Gill.