New restrictions to tackle spruce bark beetle

The RFS is urging woodland owners to be on alert for Ips typographus - the larger eight-toothed European spruce bark beetle. The call comes as the Forestry Commission extends measures in the South East to tackle the beetle.

By Wendy Necar · July 18, 2022

New findings of the beetle have been made by the Forestry Commission on spruce trees in Kent, Surrey, East Sussex and West Sussex. These were made following routine plant health surveillance.

Restrictions in place in Kent, Surrey, East Sussex and West Sussex are being extended into Hampshire to combat the further spread of the beetle. The new measures come into force on Wednesday 20 July.

Risk to UK forestry

At stake in the UK are hundreds of millions of pounds of business investment and thousands of jobs. Many nurseries, forests, timber transport, sawmills and other wood-using industries depend on spruce to some extent. If left uncontrolled, the beetle could cause significant damage to those industries.

Most species of spruce are susceptible to attack by eight-toothed spruce bark beetles. They have also been recorded on other conifer tree species, including fir trees (Abies species), pines (Pinus species) and larches (Larix species). They usually target weakened trees. Recent storm damage may have made many more trees susceptible.

Jane Hull, Forestry Commission area director, said: “The enhanced plant health enforcement actions will prevent this potentially damaging pest from becoming established. They aim to protect the forestry sector, and ensure our vital spruce are retained within the landscape.”

Suspected sightings in England, Wales and Scotland should be reported via TreeAlert or via TreeCheck in Northern Ireland.

Longer term, woodland managers, landowners and the forestry industry are being urged to remove stressed or weakened spruce and replant with other species to limit potential spread of the beetle.

The beetle is mainly a ‘secondary pest’, preferring dead, stressed or weakened trees. However, under the right environmental conditions its numbers can increase enough to result in attacks on healthy trees.

Where disease-causing fungi are present, beetles can spread them. Blue-stain fungus (Endoconidiophora polonica) in particular is associated with larger eight-toothed European spruce bark beetle in continental Europe.

Look for individual dead trees, or groups of them. The latter arise when the beetles “mass-attack” trees, overcoming the trees’ usual defences by a combination of large numbers and blue-stain fungus. This phase can lead to extensive tree deaths.

If a tree is infested with eight-toothed spruce bark beetle, inspect the bark, and the wood under the bark, should reveal a linear gallery system, where the females lay their eggs.

Ips beetles are often referred to as ‘engraver’ beetles because of the ‘engraved’ appearance of the galleries.

Adult beetles hibernate over winter under the bark of trees, logs and leaf litter. They then re-emerge in spring, when the temperature rises above 20°C.

More information is available here.

Written notification must be provided to the Forestry Commission if you intend to fell susceptible spruce material. This also applies to the genus Picea A. Dietre over three metres in height. There are also prohibitions on susceptible material being left in situ following felling, without written authorisation from an inspector. The movement of susceptible tree material, such as spruce wood, bark and branches, is being restricted in these areas


Grants are available through the Tree Health Pilot to support woodland managers with spruce trees affected by, or at risk of, the eight-toothed spruce bark beetle. The grants can pay back the costs of felling trees; protective measures; installing infrastructure and access aids, such as temporary road surfaces, to improve access to trees; and restocking and capital items to replace the trees with different species that are more likely to withstand pests, diseases and climate change.

No, but damage to UK timber industry could run  into hundreds of millions of pounds.

The area is particular vulnerable to the arrival of the eight-toothed spruce bark beetle. This is  because it can naturally be blown over from Europe.

An extensive network of pheromone traps has been positioned across the south-east to monitor for potential incursions of the pest from the continent and to identify suspect sites.

Larger eight-toothed European spruce bark beetles are present in spruce trees in most of continental Europe. The range extends from Russia and Scandinavia in the north to Italy, Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina in the south, and France, Belgium and The Netherlands in the west.

It is also present in China, Japan, North and South Korea, and Tajikistan.

A breeding population was first recorded in Kent in 2018 and subjected to an eradication order. In 2021 several further outbreaks were recorded in Kent and East Sussex.