They’re the most destructive pests to be found in eastern Canada’s softwood forests and are currently infesting forests in parts of Quebec, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador — and their numbers can be in the billions, according to the CBC.
But in spite of the horror-movie scenario, Nova Scotia officials say doing nothing — in some places — might be a viable option for the next spruce budworm infestation.
“On certain parcels of land, maybe we should do nothing, maybe we should let nature take its course,” said Provincial Forest Entomologist Jeff Ogden. “On other parcels of land that will be used for industry, we may want to protect that area.”
Part of a natural cycle
The small, brown caterpillar is the larval form of the spruce budworm moth. As a caterpillar, it eats the needles of the fir and spruce trees, causing defoliation.
Spruce budworm infestations are part of a natural 30- to 40-year cycle in softwood forests. The last time there was an outbreak was from 1979 to 1987 and Ogden said 2.5 million hectares (6.1 million acres) were impacted.
Researchers have found spruce budworm numbers are still low in the province, but work has started to decide on strategies for the next infestation.
“In the past, it may have been done solely by the government, but now we cast a wide net and get a better idea of what everybody else feels we should do for the betterment of the forests of Nova Scotia,” said Ogden. “Not just to protect industry, but protect for other values as well.”
Collaboration with other partners
That means working with campground and small business owners and the Mi’kmaw community.