The presence of the brown spruce longhorn beetle near a campground within the Kouchibouguac National Park in eastern New Brunswick was confirmed Wednesday by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
It was the centimetre-long beetle's first appearance in North America outside of Nova Scotia, where it has destroyed several thousand trees in Point Pleasant Park since its presence there was first confirmed in 1999. Containment efforts in Nova Scotia have had little success.
The Kouchibouguac beetles are almost 165 kilometres away from the closest previous sighting in Westchester Station, N.S.
The agency suspects the pest was transported to New Brunswick on firewood. It warned that the insect could spread through the spruce forests of North America.
CFIA also said that the best way to prevent its spread is to avoid transporting spruce materials such as firewood, and to buy firewood in the same place it will be burned.
"The CFIA is committed to working closely with other federal departments and agencies, provincial and municipal governments, and industry towards slowing the spread of BSLB," said George Da Pont, president of the agency.
CFIA is imposing restrictions on the movement of materials that could contain the beetle, such as spruce logs, bark and wood chips, within a kilometre radius around the park.
The agency is also searching for other brown spruce longhorn beetles or their eggs.
The beetle poses no direct threat to human health.
Long-term containment efforts
Trees containing brown spruce longhorn beetles have a tell-tale white, waxy sap, the result of larvae chewing soft tissue under the bark. They cause so much internal damage to one of the province's most important exports that the tree can no longer circulate food.
Adult beetles emerge through oval holes in the bark to mate and lay eggs.
To prevent the beetles from entering the province, a Fredericton lab developed and set 221 sex-attractant chemical traps along the Nova Scotia border. Just one beetle was captured by the traps.
Greg Cunningham, an area program specialist with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, acknowledged the beetle's voracious appetite but called the discovery at Kouchibouguac an outlier.
"Chances of widespread outbreak at this time would be very low," he said. "You won’t see many signs or symptoms beyond say 40 kilometres outside of Point Pleasant Park. It's not like a wildfire."
For that reason he does not expect that foreign spruce markets will panic.
"There is going to be some concern but at the same time the U.S. ... would look at this as being an outlier, men-induced movement."
Cunningham also said that the containment effort is collaborative and well-organized.
"We have a very strong surveillance effort on the go, and a slow-the-spread effort with a very good collaboration with the industry to implement a risk mitigation program, very good science underway ... and the provinces are onside," he said.
Cunningham said that the Canadian Forest Service has had some success with field tests to disrupt the mating of the beetles. "It has a value in the control toolbox and initiatives like that could bring about eventual eradication," he said. "That’s the hope."