Yukon beetle infestation slowing

The spruce beetle infestation in the region of Haines Junction, Yukon is petering out. The insect is eating itself "out of house and home."

Insect killing itselt off by destroying own forest habitat

In this Aug. 6, 2009 photo, Rob Legare, forest health expert with the Yukon Forest Management Branch, explains how the spruce bark beetle attacked 400,000 hectares (1 million acres) of forest in the Canadian territory, cutting off spruce trees' food supply, turning their needles red and eventually killing them, in the thick woods of the Alsek River valley, near Haines Junction, Yukon Territory. The infestation is now on the decline. (Rick Bowmer/Associated Press)
In this Aug. 6, 2009 photo, the spruce bark beetle's infestation, which has devastated the forests of southwest Yukon, could be petering out. (Rick Bowmer/Associated Press)

The spruce beetle infestation in the region of Haines Junction, Yukon is petering out.

Rob Legare, from the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, looks after the territory's forest health program. At its peak in 2004, the beetles destroyed about 5,000 hectares.

Legare said this year the insect ate through only about 500 hectares.

Legare said the beetle has basically killed itself off.

"They’re basically eating themselves out of house and home, and as they do that their population, their brood success, is less and less every year," he said. "It’s coming to that point where it’ll be at the endemic level in a year or two."

Legare said most of the beetles are in isolated spots and living on tree roots, which is where predators find them.

"The major predator at this point is squirrels," Legare said. "Squirrels are getting in at the roots of those trees and going after the larvae and having a bit of a meal."

The cold weather has also helped to kill off the insect.

In 2004, the beetles destroyed an area of forest about two-thirds the size of Prince Edward Island in southwestern Yukon.