The bark-beetle – an update of the situation

A nightmare for Swedish forest owners

The bark-beetles (Ips typographus) have had good times in the last few years. Especially in Germany and the Czech Republic. Compared to those two countries we have been lucky here in Sweden so far. But what is the situation for the bark-beetle season that is about to start?

bark beetle Ips typographus
Bark beetle (Ips typographus)
Photo: Swedish Forest Agency (Skogsstyrelsen)

The bark-beetle – a never-ending story?

As mentioned above, Sweden has been lucky so far. But there are worrying circumstances to keep an eye on for the upcoming season. In March, local storms and snow damages in south Sweden have rolled out the red carpet for the bark-beetle if nothing is done immediately. In the meantime, eight of ten bark-beetle-affected trees from last year were still in the forest in March this year.

One of the reasons seems to be the good times for the forest industry that simply hasn’t had time to go looking for damaged trees as they needed vast volumes of timber to feed the good market. Also, very few tangible actions were taken, such as traps and chemical treatment against the bark-beetle.

Czech Republic

According to the Forestry and Game Management Research Institute in the Czech Republic, the relatively cold and moist vegetation season in Central Europe in 2021 slowed down the bark-beetle calamity. Sometimes the situation is even presented as being under control. That seems almost too good to be true when you compare it with the situation in 2020 that I wrote about back then.

These issues will be discussed on the 20th – 23rd of June at the Forest Future 2022 conference in Jihlava, Czech Republic.


Germany in 2021 was spared from storms and drought according to a press release (in German) from BMEL, the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture. The conditions for the forest were good in 2021, but BMEL informs that the recovery is slow. The canopy thinning in the crowns of the trees is still too high for all tree species. A sign that the forest still suffers after recent years’ bark-beetle and drought problems.

In 2021, 40,6 million cubic meters of damaged wood were felled. That is to be compared with 66,2 million cubic meters in 2020. The forecast for 2022 is 21 million cubic meters. However, this depends on how the weather conditions will be this spring and summer. E.g., the effects of the February storms are not considered in the forecast.

The rest of Europe

It seems that most countries in Europe have the situation under control. When searching for information very little new information is found except for Germany, Sweden, and the Czech Republic. Could it be true, or are the countries running out of spruce trees due to the bark-beetle calamity?

For example, in the UK, it seems that they had no problems with the bark-beetle until 2018 when the beetle managed to come over to the island from the European mainland. According to the Forestry Commission, it’s mainly the southeast part of England that has been affected by the bark-beetle. However, they seem to have the situation under control.

Here is an article about the bark-beetle in the UK by the Woodland Trust.

Considering the problems that many European countries have had with the bark-beetle for decades, it’s strange how the UK has managed to avoid it. The UK is a kingdom on an island, but there has always been a lot of trading between the UK and the mainland. Furthermore, the English Channel is not wider than that the bark-beetle, theoretically, could fly over it with the right wind on its back. Maybe there is no coincidence that it is the southeast part of England has been struck by the beetle. It’s less than 40 kilometers from France on the mainland.

Speaking of France, they seem to have the bark-beetle situation under control. The problems they had in 2018 and 2019 were mainly in the northeastern parts, which are far away from the English Channel, which makes the mystery of the emigrating bark-beetles even more mysterious. Now, I can’t find any reports about beetle problems in France.

Is it getting better or is it just the media?

In June last year, I addressed the subject last time. Then there was more information to be found. Maybe I’m too early this time? Or has the theme cooled off? Or is the problem fading away? One can only hope that’s the case.

Here in south Sweden, the spring so far has been warm and dry. Good for the bark-beetle, bad for the forest. Sitting outdoors at the pub having a cold beer with some friends saying: “I hope the summer will be wet and cold” isn’t exactly popular. But that’s what I want – for the forest’s sake.

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