New Brunswick forestry officials are warning the spruce budworm is on the brink of another outbreak, which could cause widespread devastation.

The insect, which caused massive defoliation in the province in the 1970s and '80s, has been on a downward trend since then.

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Jeremy Gullison, an official with the Department of Natural Resources, said the number of spruce budworms is growing, especially in northern New Brunswick. (CBC)

But surveillance traps used by the Department of Natural Resources are showing the highest numbers in the past six years.

"The numbers are increasing … especially in the northern part of the province," in Madawaska county, said Jeremy Gullison, a pest management specialist with the department.

Neighbouring Quebec is now in its ninth year of a spray program against the budworm and forestry officials say the infestation is heading across the border.

"We know that it only a matter of time before the cycle begins again in New Brunswick," said Mark Arsenault, the president and chief executive officer of the New Brunswick Forest Products Association.

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Mark Arsenault, the chief executive officer of the New Brunswick Forest Products Association, the industry and government are preparing for an outbreak. (CBC)

Industry representatives have been meeting with the provincial officials to come with a new strategy that would see a quicker response to outbreaks and hopefully slow, or even stop the spread of the budworm, said Arsenault.

A spray program using a biological insecticide called BTK could begin as early as next year, he said.

New Brunswick has used aerial spraying to combat the spruce budworm in the past. At its height in 1975, the spray program against the spruce budworm covered more than half the province.