The Bark Beetle

What’s a bark beetle anyway?

Bark beetles are a diverse genus of beetles, often brown or black in color, that reproduce in self-drilled passageways beneath the bark or in the wood of trees, causing significant economic harm. The majority of bark beetle species feed on wood and bark.

Trees that are already weakened by disease, overpopulation, conspecific beetles, or physical damage are frequently attacked by bark beetles. Healthy trees generate sap, resin, or latex, which contains insecticidal and fungicidal substances that can kill, damage, or immobilize attacking insects. Pine trees use sap as one of their initial lines of defense against bark bugs. Weakened trees, on the other hand, are often unable to produce this and are thus more prone to attack.

What issues does it cause?

The Buchdrucker, a common bark beetle found in Berchtesgaden National Park, hides itself beneath the bark of weaker trees. Its passages beneath the bark obstruct the tree’s water pipelines, causing the tree to slowly perish. The bark beetle is a key player in transforming sick spruce forests into natural mountain mixed woods. However, not everyone is pleased with the small black-brown beetle’s appetite: bark beetles are mechanically suppressed in a zone averaging roughly 750 meters in the national park’s maintenance zone to protect surrounding commercial woods from infestation.

Below you can see two pictures of a forest in Hesse, and the destruction the bark beetle brought with him.

How do you fight it?

In the National Park Berchtesgaden, efficient control of the bark beetle is essential. National Park employees have been on the road in the 2,000-hectare bark beetle management zone on a regular basis since the end of April 2015. Their purpose is to locate and process Buchdrucker-affected trees as rapidly as possible. Chemicals are not utilized in this measure, which is designed to safeguard the surrounding commercial woods.

If the National Park staff have discovered a bark beetle infested tree in the control zone, they remove the bark from the trees. The larvae of the beetle are unable to evolve after manual removal of the bark. The defined trunks and bark are still present, providing a new source of life for insects and plants. In addition, the wood contributes to natural avalanche and erosion protection. If debarking is neither possible or desirable due to enormous volumes, the afflicted trees are roped or helicoptered out of the stocks. Due to the chilly and wet spring, the bark beetle is not very active in the National Park this year. Nonetheless, from spring until autumn, the printer is constantly inspected.

According to a current National Park study effort, with an adapted game population on the bark beetle sites, up to 10,000 regeneration plants per hectare can spontaneously establish themselves. This sets the groundwork for the National Park to become a near-natural, species-rich mountain forest in the future.