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Individual Highlight

Beetle Pheromones Save Endangered Pines From Bark Beetles

Photo of Researcher applying pheromone-releasing flakes to a whitebark pine bole. <i>Forest Service</i>Researcher applying pheromone-releasing flakes to a whitebark pine bole. Forest ServiceSnapshot : High-elevation pines protected by turning beetles' own pheromones against them

Principal Investigators(s) :
Gillette, Nancy E. 
Research Location : Colorado, Mondana, Wyoming, and Washington
Research Station : Pacific Southwest Research Station (PSW)
Year : 2012
Highlight ID : 86


Forest Service scientists along with research partners from the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Alberta developed pheromone-releasing flakes that prevent bark beetle attacks and protect whitebark and limber pines. The flakes release a behavioral chemical that convinces beetles that the treated trees are not good host trees in which to reproduce.

The scientists applied the pheromone releasing flakes in two ways: in aerial applications over large stands of trees and in sticker applications to individual tree trunks. They compared subsequent bark beetle attack in treated stands with that in untreated stands. Protection ranged from 50 to 80 percent, even for trees baited with the beetle's aggregation pheromone.

The flakes can be dispersed into remote, high-elevation stands even when snow is on the ground, when beetle attack commonly occurs. The flakes provide a nontoxic alternative to insecticides that protects high-elevation pines from bark beetles. The application of the flakes benefits public land managers attempting to protect and preserve fragile, high-elevation pine ecosystems that are habitat for Grizzly Bears and Clark's Nutcracker. The most common uses for the flakes are at campgrounds, administrative sites, ski areas, and rust-resistant stands used for genetic conservation. Scientists conducted the research in Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, and Washington.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • University of Alberta
  • University of California

Program Areas