Calgary

Frigid temps may put pine beetle on ice

While most people are praying for an end to the current cold snap, officials at Banff National Park are hoping the deep-freeze will last.

While most people are praying for an end to the current cold snap, officials at Banff National Park are hoping the deep-freeze will last.

The mountain pine beetle has infested parts of the park, killing thousands of trees. It makes its home beneath the bark, where it can lay hundreds of eggs, protected from the ravages of winter.

But the bug can't survive when the mercury dips below –40 C for long periods of time.

Jane Park studies the insect in the park, and she actually hopes the cold weather will continue.

"We need –40 C under the bark of the tree," she explains. "So far – although we've had really cold temperatures – we need really extended periods of really cold temperatures to have any effect on the survival."

Park says frigid temperatures do the most damage to the pine beetle population either early in winter or late in the spring.

But last January, a cold spell killed off up to 75 per cent of the bug in some areas. However, for the most part, recent winters have been too mild to stop the spread of the beetle.

That leaves Banff Mayor John Stutz in a bit of a quandary.

"Of course it's a mixed blessing," he says. "If we can control the pine beetle by cold weather and still have our visitors enjoy themselves and still get out and enjoy the ski hills – that's the best of both worlds."

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