Beginning in the late 1980s, a series of pine beetle (also known as the bark beetle) outbreaks unsettled iconic forests and communities across western North America. An insect the size of a rice kernel eventually killed more than 30 billion pine and spruce trees from Alaska to New Mexico.
The pine beetle didn’t act alone. Misguided science, out-of-control logging, bad public policy, and a hundred years of fire suppression released the world’s oldest forest manager from all natural constraints. The beetles exploded wildly in North America and then crashed, leaving in their wake grieving landowners, humbled scientists, hungry animals, and altered watersheds. Although climate change triggered this complex event, human arrogance assuredly played a role. And despite the billions of public dollars spent on control efforts, the beetles burn away like a fire that can’t be put out.
Author Andrew Nikiforuk draws on first-hand accounts from entomologists, botanists, foresters, and rural residents to investigate this unprecedented pine beetle plague, its startling implications, and the lessons it holds. Written in an accessible way, Empire of the Beetle is the only book on the pine beetle epidemic that is devastating the North American West.