The terror of lodgepole pine forests across the west may face the ultimate KO thanks to a commonly used ingredient of herbal tea. As if to add the final insult, this anti-beetle ingredient originates from the offending mountain beetles themselves. When a beetle suspects too many of its kind moving into the neighborhood, it releases a chemical telling others to stay away. The message is so strong, beetle numbers dropped three-fold in treated areas. Now scientists have figured out how to apply the natural repellent over thousands of acres of infected forest by dropping chemically-laced flakes out of a plane.
Nancy Gillette, a Forest Service scientist at the Pacific Southwest Research Station, thought of the idea to release the flakes by air and has already used the method to treat two areas around in the West, Mount Shasta and portions of Idaho’s Bitterroot Mountains. Where they dropped flakes, beetle infestations fell to 30 percent. Now her research team is looking into upping the environmental friendliness of the treatment by creating a biodegradable version.
Point one for naturopathic beetle treatments.