Five things you should know about the bark beetle
1. The bark beetle is a killer of trees
It feasts on bark, the tree’s water distribution system. The bark falls off and the tree dies.
2. The damage has been widespread
In early November, Södra made a new inventory to estimate the volume of damaged spruce forest after the summer infestation. A total of 1.1 million m³ under bark is estimated to be damaged and dying on Södra’s member estates. There has been a slight increase since the last inventory in August, which may be due to the damage being easier to spot towards the end of the season but also because of new attacks in the late summer.
Of course the problem has not been confined to Sweden. The unusually long, hot and dry summer throughout Europe has provided perfect conditions for the beetle to thrive.
3. The best way to tackle the threat is to remove affected trees
Felling affected trees and removing the logs from the forest is the most effective measure against the bark beetle. The beetles will be dormant until next Spring and it is critical to interrupt their life-cycle. Södra has been busy removing damaged trees and advising its members to audit their forest holdings: “It is vital that forest owners fell and remove any infested trees from their forest during winter because large numbers of spruce beetles may still be inside the bark,” said Södra ecologist Henrik Holmberg.
4. The harvested timber is graded and used
At this stage the main effect of the beetle damage on timber is cosmetic. It is the bark that the beetles destroy rather than the wood, so provided the tree is felled promptly, it retains its properties. The grading is based on the blue “bloom” which can be seen on the timber following beetle attack, and which is only significant if the wood’s appearance is important. The initial grading takes place in the forest. Trees not suitable as sawlogs will still make excellent pulp – an advantage of Södra having pulp mills as well as sawmills. There is a further visual inspection in the sawmill before the FinScan system makes the final check and grading according to the degree to which the log has been impacted by the beetle’s activity.
5. The effect on market dynamics is inevitable but likely to be short lived
The bark beetle infestation took place when stocks in Scandinavia were historically low. The influx of timber from affected forests will bring balance to the market but this is likely to be short term, as pent-up demand from Asia is set ramp up again by Q2 2019 and demand in Europe remains very healthy - and growing.