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Cold weather may decimate pine beetle populations

In this Aug. 24, 2006 picture, a mountain pine beetle crawls out of a ponderosa pine tree while another, right, remains in its hole in Green Mountain Falls, Colo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/The Gazette, Hunter McRae

Mountain Pine Beetles continue to pose a threat to Alberta and B.C. forests.

The temperature at which Pine Beetles can freeze is complex, depending on the season and time of year.

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — While us humans do our best to grit our teeth and bear the cold weather, it may come as a relief to trees struggling with infestations.

For the past few years, mountain pine beetles have been wreaking havoc on forests in B.C. and in Alberta’s boreal habitat in Jasper National Park.

It is hard to get rid of the insects — who bury under the bark during the winter and are hard to target with insecticides in the summer.

But mother nature actually provides two of the beetle’s most notorious enemies.

READ MORE: Trees being burned on border of Jasper park to combat mountain pine beetle

“One, how quickly the cold snap came on after a period of fairly warm weather. So they might not be physiologically ready to adapt,” said Mary Reid, a professor with the University of Calgary’s Environmental Science program. “Secondly, we haven’t had very much snow this year so they’re not going to be protected under the snow — that’s where their winter survival is highest.”

The rapid fluctuations we see between day and night will also assist, as the beetles may feel safe when the afternoon sun warms them up only to be frozen solid by nightfall when temperatures fall to -30 and below.

But, don’t start planning a celebration for the demise of the beetles quite yet, because we don’t exactly know what impact this winter will have.

“It will be very interesting to see,” said Reid. “But traditionally that seems to be what controls their population numbers, is some bitterly cold temperatures. So, yeah, it will be interesting to see how many are around next summer.”