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U of A researcher hopes new discovery will help take out the pine beetle

EDMONTON – For years, the mountain pine beetle has decimated lodgepole pine forests – chewing through healthy, green trees and leaving them dry, red and dead.

While researchers acknowledge that the beetles are doing what they’re supposed to do, they’re concerned about the pests recently taking a liking to the jack pine, a species which extends all the way from Alberta to the Maritimes.

That’s why Nadir Erbilgin is trying to outsmart the critters.

He says pine beetles produce pheromones on the jack pine that rally beetles to a tree. Erbilgin and his team are working to develop a synthetic version of that pheromone to use as bait in a trap, or a tree that will eventually be destroyed.

The researchers already tested the bait in Grande Prairie and it appears to be working. Next comes fine-tuning, and trials next summer.

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“We cannot just give up – we have to develop tools to keep track of beetles and monitor their activity,” Erbilgin said.

He hopes to have the synthetic pheromone ready to go within the next few years.

In the meantime, he’s hoping for a long, cold winter which would help with his quest of taking out what he calls the most damaging forest insect in North America.

With files from Laurel Gregory, Global News

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