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History’s Largest Insect Outbreak

June 23rd, 2015

History’s Largest Insect Outbreak

The bark beetle makes its home around the country, but has moved in permanently, it seems, to the state of California.  Drought conditions bring massive numbers of bugs, and California is in its fourth year of suffering from lack of water.

The mortality of trees in California will continue even if the drought ends, due to incredibly high number of bark beetles already infesting forests.  The scope of this problem is quantifiable:  A 2013 survey of forests revealed 4,000 acres with large swaths of dead trees; this year the number of impact acres was 164,000.

In the most recent aerial survey, the estimate of dead trees was around 2 million.

National Forests in California are estimated to have dead trees in the following ranges:

  • Angeles NF – 79,084
  • Cleveland National Forest – 78,054
  • Los Padres National Forest – 1,000,000
  • San Bernardino National Forest – 39,149

Of all these, however, the aerial survey showed that Sequoia National Forest was by far the worst victim, with over four million dead trees due to the bark beetle.

These unprecedented numbers have led forest experts to classify the bark beetle as the most destructive bug known.  Their spread “is the largest insect outbreak in the history of the planet … at least in recorded history,” said Diana L. Six, professor of forest entomology and pathology at The University of Montana in Missoula, Montana.

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