Research Blog

Looking for updates and to follow the progress of the research? Lead researcher Dr. Rob Johns (Natural Resources Canada) and his team will provide project status updates on testing, results, analysis and updates on spruce budworm populations throughout the course of the project. 




Another spruce budworm field season comes to an end – what to expect in the coming months - December

It’s been a busy 2015 research season – and fortunately the bulk of our field work is finally nearing its end. We made solid progress in our efforts to manage emerging ‘hot spots’ of spruce budworm activity along the northern New Brunswick border. At this time last year, our trap surveys and branch samples indicated that there were two locations showing signs of increasing budworm populations in New Brunswick: one near the Quebec border north of Edmundston and the other just south of Campbellton (Fig. 1). These hot spots served as another opportunity to experimentally test the Early Intervention Strategy approach,...

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The Economic Reality of Spruce Budworm - August 6, 2015

The spruce budworm is a native insect that periodically kills large numbers of balsam fir and spruce trees across eastern Canada. Generally speaking, it is neither a “good” or “bad” guy. Instead, it is a natural disturbance that kills mature forests, allowing young forests to regenerate in their place. Similar to forest fires, these outbreaks are all part of a natural ecological cycle; the budworm cycle often results in mature balsam fir being killed and replaced by young balsam fir. However, from an economic standpoint spruce budworm is definitely a “bad guy”.  Numerous independent scientific studies across eastern Canada, published in...

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Using Weather Radar to Track an Enemy of our Forests – The Spruce Budworm - July 21, 2015

There is considerable research ongoing outside of Atlantic Canada to better understand the spread of spruce budworm outbreaks. Here is a great example of some of that work, as described by my colleague and team leader of this project, Dr. Yan Boulanger of the Laurentian Forestry Centre in Quebec City. – Rob Johns During the night of July 15 2013, an astonishing number of spruce budworm moths were observed in Rimouski, Quebec. They were so numerous that people were literally “shovelling” moths the next morning in order to clean their driveways and balconies. Following this event, scientists asked: Where did these...

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Pheromone Application Concludes in Quebec for 2015 - July 20, 2015

Part of our early intervention program involves testing spruce budworm pheromones. In early July, the final application of pheromone flakes was made in the Amqui, Quebec region. This research project tests pheromones as a way to disrupt the budworm’s mating cycle, and thereby reducing population numbers.

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NB Spruce Budworm Treatment Concludes for 2015 - June 23, 2015

Working between the poorer weather conditions, we were able to complete our experimental treatment applications as of the morning of June 21st, 2015. To reiterate the treatment plan for this year, in the Hornes Gulch region there was one application of Mimic applied over June 14th and 15th to suppress an apparent ‘hot spot’ of spruce budworm that was detected in the area this past fall. A second ‘hot spot’ was also identified just south of Campbellton and treated with two applications of Btk between June 14th and June 21st. Our team is currently assessing branches from trees in both areas to...

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Poor weather delays Early Intervention treatment trials - June 11, 2015

Weather has not been cooperating with us and we are still waiting for the first application of Btk in the Campellton area and the Mimic application north of Edmundston. Conditions of precipitation and high winds are avoided so that the small treatment droplets have their best chance of being eaten by the spruce budworm caterpillars. Btk, in particular, only remains on the foliage for 3-10 days before evaporating in the sun, so it is essential that the weather conditions be near perfect. With all the rain recently, we are waiting for a good weather window!  

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Federal dollars to be spent on a spruce budworm sampling laboratory - June 9, 2015

There was some great news this week for the spruce budworm research group at the Atlantic Forestry Centre in Fredericton. Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford was on hand to announce $4.8 million in infra-structure dollars for the centre, a portion of which will be allocated to refurbishing several labs for processing samples collected to monitor spruce budworm. The lab will consist of a specialized laboratory to help us assess spruce budworm in the autumn as they lie dormant on branches for the winter. These branches need to be collected and ‘washed’ with chemicals to dislodge larvae from branches so that they may be counted. This lab...

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Researchers prepare to treat spruce budworm ‘hot spots’ in northern NB - June 2, 2015

As many people have already heard, the NB Department of Natural Resources working with the forestry companies have detected a potential spruce budworm ‘hot spot’ in the Hornes Gulch (north of Edmundston) and Campbellton region. The densities are still fairly low there (~1-15 larvae per branch) compared to outbreak levels seen these days in Quebec (as many as 200 per branch!). However, this is an ideal opportunity to test the effectiveness of the Early Intervention Strategy, a research program that  aims to suppress these spruce budworm ‘hot spots’ before they reach epidemic levels. Treatments will be carried out in these areas in mid-late June and populations monitored to determine if we are successful...

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Budworm Tracker - May 21, 2015

If you have been following the news on spruce budworm lately, you likely know it is on the rise again. And if you have been following Dr. Rob Johns’ blog posts here, you will know that migration of the SBW is a potentially very important factor in understanding the growth and movement of spruce budworm populations. One of the tools that we are using to get a better understanding of SBW migration is a pheromone trap (images 1 and 2). You can read why in Rob’s early blog post.  In year one of the research program, the team set-up a...

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Spruce Budworm has arrived - March 7, 2015

Spruce budworm has arrived in New Brunswick. In recent years the New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources in coordination with several local forestry groups (University of New Brunswick; Government of New Brunswick; Natural Resources Canada; Twin Rivers; Fornebu Lumber; J.D. Irving, Limited; AV Group; Acadian Timber; Forest Protection Limited) has intensified regional surveys for budworm, using a combination of both pheromone traps (to monitor adults) and branch sampling to determine densities of hibernating larvae (aka “L2 larvae”). Sampling for hibernating larvae involves snipping three branch tips (about 75 cm) in a plot (Picture 1) and then ‘washing’ these branches back in...

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Monitoring Spruce Budworm - July 18, 2014

Spruce budworm has more or less completed its feeding for this year in Atlantic Canada and has shifted into the adult moth stage to mate and lay eggs for the next generation. Migration of adult moths during this stage is often prolific and considerable research has been dedicated to understanding how these migratory events influence outbreaks. However, less is known of the migratory activity of spruce budworm as populations rise. In particular, it remains uncertain what conditions prompt moths to migrate away from (or to) a particular area, the importance of male vs. female migration, or how much these migratory...

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Budworm predators - June 16-25, 2014

Predators and parasitoids (a.k.a., natural enemies) are thought to be the primary agents keeping spruce budworm populations low during the years between outbreaks. These agents are also thought to be primarily responsible for driving populations back to low density at the end of an outbreak. Considerable work in the past 50 years has been dedicated to understanding the relationship between these natural enemies and the spruce budworm; however, our understanding of these interactions remains poor for rising spruce budworm populations. A key part of our research project is to determine whether insecticide treatments are able to suppress low density spruce budworm...

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Overmature trees more susceptible to insects and disease - June 3-5, 2014

As trees become old or ‘overmature’, many become more susceptible to insects and diseases. One of the major hypotheses generated during the early work of spruce budworm during the 1950’s was that outbreaks rose as trees matured and became a better food source for feeding spruce budworm larvae (aka the ‘Silvicultural’ hypothesis). Such increases in tree nutritional quality were speculated to allow populations to rise more quickly, thereby outstripping the ability of predators to exert control. The characteristic 35 year cycles of spruce budworm outbreak were thought to reflect the approximate 30-35 years required for maturation in balsam fir and spruce. Whether...

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Budworm studies start in Northern NB - May 26, 2014

April and May of 2014 have been busy months as we prepare for the upcoming spruce budworm studies in northern New Brunswick, about 60 km north of Edmundston (aka Hornes Gultch). This is the first region in New Brunswick where provincial surveys have detected more than a few overwintering spruce budworm larvae. The apparent rise of spruce budworm in this region is perhaps an indication of where the New Brunswick outbreaks might begin. Although it was clear that spruce budworm had risen somewhat in the area, we were still uncertain how large and widespread the population was. To carry out some...

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First Introductory Post

Spruce budworm is once again on the rise in eastern Canada. Spruce and fir forests in Quebec have already been subjected to nearly 3.2 million hectares of moderate to severe defoliation by spruce budworm as of 2006. So far, densities remain low in the province of New Brunswick; however, a small outbreak has developed only 50 km or so north of the New Brunswick border and is expected to continue spreading. With spruce budworm rising, the million-dollar questions are: How can we best manage spruce budworm outbreaks? What are the best strategies and tactics to control spruce budworm that minimize potential environmental impact? Our...

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