Forest Owners Warn of Potential National Disaster from Destructive Beetle
A group of forest owners has issued a strong warning about the potential for a “national disaster” if a destructive beetle enters the country. The eight-toothed spruce bark beetle, Ips Typographus, which has caused widespread damage to forests across Europe, has not yet been found on the island of Ireland. However, the Irish Forest Owners (IFO) group has expressed concern that if this pest were to gain entry through the importation of timber with bark on it, it would be a “national disaster” and make the ash dieback emergency look simple.
Governments have advised that these beetles often tunnel into the bark of living trees to lay their eggs. The larvae then feed and develop, forming galleries that weaken, and in some cases kill, the host tree. The IFO stated, “As things stand, we import substantial quantities of logs with bark on for processing by Irish sawmills. Much of this timber comes from Scotland. Recently, the eight-toothed spruce bark beetle was discovered in Fife, on the east coast of Scotland, and consequently, there is an increased risk associated with the importation of those logs.”
Scottish Forestry has stated that its surveillance program to check for pests and diseases in Scotland’s forests is proving successful. The discovery of a single Ips Typographus beetle on a trap in a Fife woodland is believed to have come in on the back of goods being shipped at Grangemouth. Tree health experts believe that the risk can be managed with proper measures in place.
The IFO is calling for urgent action to address the risks involved in the importation of logs that have not been debarked onto the island. The group has urged the Minister for Agriculture to take immediate steps to protect the future of the forest industry in Ireland. They have suggested that the minister liaise with their counterpart in Northern Ireland to adopt an all-island approach to defend the Protected Zone Status against this and other bark beetle pests. If the inspections at ports throughout the island of Ireland cannot guarantee the prevention of the bark beetle’s importation, the IFO believes a ban on the importation of timber that is not bark-free must be implemented.
The IFO has called on all foresters, forest owners, and other stakeholders to remain vigilant for signs of unusual ill-health in trees or evidence of bark beetles. They have asked that any concerns be reported to the department. The protection of Ireland’s forests and the prevention of a potential national disaster are of utmost importance to the IFO and the wider forest industry.