A California-based U.S. Forest Service researcher says treating lodgepole pines with a substance called verbenone could cut pine-beetle infestation rates by 30% to 60%.
Recent experiments suggest that applying pheromone flakes from the air could be a way to protect high-value stands of trees, including areas around campgrounds and even forests bordering ski-area trails, according to the Summit Daily News, Frisco, Colo.
“It’s a ubiquitous natural product,” said entomologist Nancy Gillette. “The pheromone we’re testing has been known for decades.”
When bark beetles sense the presence of the naturally produced substance around trees, they tend to disperse, thinking that a potential host tree already is occupied.
The pheromone is a chemical produced by the bugs themselves, but it can be replicated in the laboratory.
The biggest challenge for the forest service has been finding ways to apply verbenone effectively.
“It’s hard to make it work out in the woods. We have worked with it quite a bit, and it has a long and tortuous history,” said Jeff Witcosky, an entomologist with the Rocky Mountain regional Forest Service office.
“The biggest problem is that we’ve had variable and unpredictable outcomes. It’s effective when beetle populations are low,” Witcosky said.