RMK is saving Estonia’s forests from the clutches of the European spruce bark beetle 14.04

RMK is collecting information on larval damage in the state forest, in order to prevent the spread of insect pests and thereby save our forest from being plundered by bark beetles.

‘On 15 In April, spring-summer felling in the state forest managed by RMK will begin; a pattern that RMK has followed since 2002, and will once again follow this year. Unfortunately, this year, in order to protect our forests, we have to carry out felling work in the state forest during the felling-free season, in order to eliminate the damage caused by the spruce bark beetle and prevent the further spread of the pest to currently healthy forests. The felling affects only 0.1% or 1000 hectares out of the 1 million hectares of state forests; in the remaining areas, nesting peace is still guaranteed for forest residents’, explained Tavo Uuetalu, Member of the Management Board of RMK.

Estonian forests are also threatened by the spruce bark beetle, which has plundered the forests of Central Europe, and whose reproduction in the wild here has been facilitated by the last two summers of drought and warm winters. To ensure that bark beetle damage to Estonian forests does not reach the same scale as in the Czech Republic or Germany, where the bark beetle has committed extensive plundering (see pictures from RMK's image bank), RMK is collecting information on bark beetle damage in our state forest and acting immediately.

‘If we fail to stop the spread of the bark beetle today, our forests will soon be dried up, lifeless ecological communities, similar to many forests in the Czech Republic and Germany; therefore, it is necessary to act quickly and efficiently by eliminating infestations and preventing the further spread of the pest’, said Tavo Uuetalu.

As at the beginning of April, RMK’s employees have identified bark beetle damage on 2000 hectares of commercial forest spruces, which means that approximately 400,000 cubic metres of growing forest have been damaged. In addition, RMK is monitoring the flight of bark beetles in 25 monitoring areas (see the map of monitoring areas) and as soon as the bark beetle wakes up from hibernation and climbs out of the soil to damage trees, these crucibles are eliminated. The most effective way to reduce the spread of bark beetles is through the use of trap trees and the felling and removal of trees from the forest that have been freshly inhabited by bark beetles, to reduce the spread of the pests to trees that are still healthy.

‘As a rule, the bark beetle typically winters in the soil until the air temperature rises to 18–20 degrees and the soil warms to 10 degrees. The beetles then leave the soil and look for suitable trees in which to begin laying their eggs. That is why beetle damage must be eliminated in the spring, when the trees inhabited by the insects can already be noticed and the next generation of pests has yet to leave the tree. It is not possible to postpone the works until the autumn, because by that time the bark beetle that reproduced during the spring will have gone to winter in the soil or damaged even larger areas’, explained entomologist Heino Õunap.

Spruce bark beetles are 4-5.5 mm in length, dark brown to black, with the beetles belonging to the weevil family, which feeds on trees and reproduces under the bark. If there is a large number of spruce bark beetles, the beetles can also damage viable trees by destroying their cambium and phloem.

You can read more about the bark beetle and the damage caused by it on RMK's homepage.

Further information:
Tavo Uuetalu
Member of the Management Board of RMK
E-mail: tavo.uuetalu@rmk.ee
Telephone: +372-504-5069

Heino Õunap
Estonian Environment Agency, Forest Department Specialist, Entomologist
E-mail: heino.ounap@envir.ee
Telephone: +372-525-1931

Sille Ader
Head of the RMK Communications Department
E-mail: sille.ader@rmk.ee
Telephone: +372-5666-5896