Dry weather boosts likelihood of more bark beetle devastation in 2019

Photo: Lucie Hochmanová / Czech Radio

The current dry weather in the Czech Republic is facilitating the reproduction of the bark beetle, which destroys spruce trees. Indeed, the voracious insect began swarming a week earlier this year than in 2018, which saw the most costly bark beetle infestation in this part of the world for a full two centuries.

Photo: Lucie Hochmanová / Czech Radio
Petr Zahradník of the forestry protection service of the Forestry and Game Management Research Institute told the Czech News Agency that he expects the insect to swarm up to four times this year.

In the past that process tended to occur once or twice annually. However, last year bark beetles swarmed four times, which was unprecedented.

Experts now say they expect the bark beetle to cause more than the CZK 30 billion in damages for 2019 that they had previously estimated.

Mr. Zahradník said he was unable to foresee temperatures this summer but said the fact the process had already begun meant that the chance of the bark beetle swarming four times this year was “abnormally high”.

According to a bark beetle information website the mild winter the Czech Republic did not cause numbers of the insect to fall.

Temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius and low precipitation are ideal for the swarming of the bark beetle and this will lead to the number of afflicted trees rising quickly, says expert Stanislav Slanina.

Until 2015, an average of around 1.5 million cubic metres of wood was lost annually to the bark beetle. This year the figure is expected to reach no less than 25 million cubic metres.

A new law came into effect this month under which the country has been divided into zones with different levels of anti-bark beetle measures. Throughout the country the extraction of trees already abandoned by the insect may be deferred until the end of 2022, under the legislation.

In the worst affected areas landowners are now allowed to cease using various kinds of bark beetle traps, if they so wish.

A bark beetle disaster zone has been declared in seven of the country’s regions. Forest clearance deadlines in the worst hit areas have been extended from the previous two to five years. Replanting deadlines have also loosened.

However, owners are still obliged to actively locate trees attacked by the insect and clear them.

The Czech branch of Friends of the Earth argues that the Ministry of Agriculture’s response to the crisis has been inadequate. They say landowners lacking staff will have no choice but to use poisonous pesticides in the clearance process.

Those working in Czech forestry say the bark beetle crisis is the worst situation to ever hit their industry.