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Dead and dying pine trees, infested by mountain pine beetles, in a forest near Whitecourt, Alberta, Canada on June 4, 2015. 

Dead and dying pine trees, infested by mountain pine beetles, in a forest near Whitecourt, Alberta, Canada on June 4, 2015. 

Photographer: David Ryder/Bloomberg
Green
Climate Adaptation

Millions of Beetles Are Wiping Out Forests All Across the World

The pest are eating away at trees as climate change warms winters. Infestations have the potential to worsen future emissions.

A plague of tiny mountain pine beetles, no bigger than a grain of rice, has already destroyed 15 years of log supplies in British Columbia, enough trees to build 9 million single-family homes, and are chewing through forests in Alberta and the Pacific Northwest. Now, an outbreak of spruce beetles is threatening to devour even more trees in North America just as similar pests are decimating supplies in parts of Europe, creating a glut of dead and dying logs.

The bugs are thriving as climate change warms winters that would normally keep them at bay, destroying a swath of the world’s timber supplies. That may eventually spur shortages for the global housing market. Right now, lumber prices are soaring to record highs thanks to a  surge in pent-up repair, renovation and housing demand sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.