In the 1990s, spruce bark beetles were considered an epidemic, responsible for destroying millions of acres of trees on the Kenai Peninsula. Jessie Moan, a pest management specialist, says that on a much smaller scale, the beetles are back.

“We are seeing more spruce beetle activity than we have in the past few years, and it seems to be throughout Southcentral, not just in Anchorage,” Moan said. “The damage does seem to be scattered so I don’t want to give the impression that all areas or all trees are infested, but we are seeing pockets throughout the region.”

Moan said the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Cooperative Extension Service, where she works, is getting lots of calls from homeowners in the Anchorage area with questions about spruce bark beetles. She tells them prevention is really the only way to fight the bugs. That includes making sure trees are as healthy as possible, watering frequently and considering spraying with an insecticide early in the spring.

“Sprays need to happen in early spring before the adult beetle’s active flight period, which is around May to July,” Moan said. “The sprays are strictly preventive, they are not going to cure infestation so you want to kill those beetles as they are attacking the tree.”

The Cooperative Extension Service is holding a free public talk Thursday evening in Anchorage on how to identify the bugs and prevent an infestation. It’s from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the Cooperative Extension Office at 1675 C Street.

KTVA 11’s Lauren Maxwell can be reached via email or on Twitter.