From: University of Alberta
Published August 30, 2017 08:35 AM

Tree's chemistry puts mountain pine beetle in sticky situation

A University of Alberta forestry professor has cracked a key mystery surrounding the mountain pine beetle.

After studying lodgepole pine trees in the Grande Prairie area that survived a pine beetle attack, U of A professor Nadir Erbilgin and his team discovered certain chemicals in the trees that produce high levels of resin—sticky sap—that overwhelms the insect.

The beetle has ravaged entire pine forests in western North America, including Alberta and British Columbia, for the last decade with researchers scrambling to find ways to curb its spread to Eastern Canada. One solution, Erbilgin says, is rooted in the tree’s own defensive chemistry.

“The surviving trees have high concentrations of compounds that are toxic to the beetle,” said Erbilgin, a Canada Research Chair in Forest Entomology and Chemical Ecology, based in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences. As well, Erbilgin and his team also found that surviving trees contained low amounts of beneficial compounds that are used by the beetle to call others to the tree.


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Photo via University of Alberta.

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