The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) has announced the discovery of a non-European bark beetle, known as the Monterey Pine Engraver (Pseudips mexicanus), in Ireland. This is the first time that this species has been found in the country. The beetles were detected in six traps in forest locations in County Clare, as part of the department’s ongoing national surveys. A total of 93 beetles were found in a confined area. It is important to note that the beetles were found in traps and not on the trees themselves. Furthermore, there is no evidence of any breeding insects or damage caused by the species.
Laboratory tests have confirmed that the beetles found in Clare are of Mexican origin. Investigations are currently underway to determine how the insect came into the country. In a letter to registered foresters and stakeholders, DAFM stated that the Monterey Pine Engraver is not considered to be a significant pest for Ireland’s economy. The discovery will not impact the movement of Irish spruce logs, timber, or other non-pine species.
The Monterey Pine Engraver is naturally found in a range from Alaska to Central America and is exclusively found in pine species. While it is not considered an aggressive pest in its natural range and is typically regarded as a secondary pest of stressed, dead, or dying trees, there is limited research available on the species. As a result, there is a high level of uncertainty regarding the risks posed by this pest.
The Monterey Pine Engraver has been known to attack a wide range of pine tree species in its native regions, but it is not currently recorded to be a host for Scots Pine. Although the specific name of the beetle is not mentioned in legislation, all non-European bark beetles are treated as union quarantine pests (UQP) under EU plant health regulations. Therefore, DAFM has established a “Monterey Pine Engraver Demarcated Area” with a radius of 10km from the traps where the beetles were captured. Restrictions will apply to the felling and movement of pine species within this area. This is to ensure that untreated wood and wood products from the area are only allowed to leave for treatment by DAFM and not for direct trade or export.
The department will be directly contacting forest owners with pine plantations in the demarcated area to provide them with further information. Jason Fleming, chair of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) Forestry Committee, expressed his concern over the discovery of the Monterey Pine Engraver. He stated that it is devastating for the small number of farmers involved and there are fears that the beetle could spread to other parts of the country. Fleming also called on DAFM to review its biosecurity measures regarding timber imports from Scotland, highlighting the threat posed by the great spruce bark beetle, which has not yet been detected in Ireland. The pest is currently established in southern Scotland and is gradually extending its range northwards. The IFA Forestry chair has previously called for the suspension of timber imports from Scotland until an agreement on biosecurity measures can be reached by a stakeholder taskforce.