Spruce bark beetle continue to damage and kill spruce trees around the Anchorage bowl and across Southcentral Alaska. The question often asked is, what if anything can one do about it? Or perhaps, what SHOULDN’T we do about it. Many commercial companies use pesticide sprays and root drenches that contain carbaryl, a chemical known to be toxic to humans, aquatic life, and pollinators.
ACAT wrote a fact sheet on carbaryl and its effects (https://www.akaction.org/wp-content/uploads/Fact-Sheet-on-Carbaryl-July-2019.pdf). The information this document contains is intended as a tool to be used to inform yourself and share with your neighbors when they are making decisions about how best to care for their trees. Simply put, the costs to your health and our environment by using carbaryl far outweigh any gains by killing a portion of the beetle population in that particular tree.
There are also simple, inexpensive, and healthy alternatives. As with any of your garden plants, when thriving, they are more resilient to pests and disease. Watering and mulching your trees is a great step towards keeping them happy and healthy this year.
The abundance of beetles is not the root of this issue, rather a symptom of our changing climate. If a spruce tree is lost, consider replacing it with a tree or other plant that is more well suited to the greater weather extremes and commonly warmer, drier summer conditions Anchorage is experiencing. Larch, fir, and pine are wonderful options, as are more moose-prone apples, cherries, and plums.
Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions.