Kenora, Ont., is experiencing a pine beetle boom this summer.

A provincial forest entomologist said people in the area are reporting more encounters with the big, black, long-antennae beetles this year.


Pine beetles are sometimes known as white-spotted sawyer beetles, says Taylor Scarr, a forest entomologist with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry in Ontario. (Hilary Duff/CBC)

While the beetles don't seek out people, they can bite, Taylor Scarr said.

"Their natural response to being grabbed is that they think it's a bird that's after them — a bird predator," he said.

"They'll grab on with their feet, and grab on with their jaws and, since their mandibles, or jaws, are made for chewing wood, it can be a painful bite."

Scarr said the population boost is probably due to a heavy snowfall that hit the Kenora area in 2013.

"And what these beetles do is they lay their eggs in those recently killed or damaged trees, and the eggs hatch and the larva or grubs tunnel inside the tree, and then they emerge two years later as an adult beetle."

Pine beetle larvae

Damaged trees create an ideal habitat for the pine beetles to lay their eggs, a provincial forest entomologist says. Pictured here is pine beetle larvae. (Mike Francis)

A large area was affected by the snowfall in 2013 — roughly 3.2 million hectares of forest

He also said he doesn't expect to see more pine beetles than average in the Thunder Bay area this year, because the 2013 snow damage was concentrated around Kenora, and areas northwest of Kenora.

Scarr said the beetles usually won't cause problems for people. But they are clumsy flyers, so they sometimes crash into people. In that case, it's best to brush or shake them off so that they don't think you're a predator trying to grab them.

The numbers of pine beetles in northwestern Ontario isn't expected to be high enough to do any kind of serious damage to live trees, Scarr said.

The pine beetle is also known as the white-spotted sawyer beetle