The combination of extreme drought last summer and an invading insect-fungus complex called Beech Bark Disease (BBD) has resulted in the death of many beech trees throughout this park. Beech trees can reach up to 250 years in age, diameters of 80cm and heights of 27m. Looking at smooth grey trunks of the beech trees around the park, you can notice claw marks from black bears climbing to reach the nuts in fall. Beechnuts are an extremely important food source for black bear, deer, birds and various rodents. Beech trees have been called the “dining room table” of the forest.
Beech Bark Disease begins as tiny, oval, sucking insects, less than 1mm in length, called Beech Scale, feed on the outer bark of beech trees. These insects alone do not kill the trees, but they reduce the trees’ resistance to fungal infections and infestations from other insects, as they enter through the Beech Scales’ feeding wounds.
Within 2-10 years, the trees become infected with a fungus known as Neonectria faginata. The fungus grows into the inner bark and cambium, creating oval or lemon shaped cankers on the tree. Large trees are the first to become infected and their crowns die. They are open to attack from other rotting fungi and can break during wind storms.
Throughout the non-operating season, hundreds of diseased beech trees around campsites, roads and trails have been removed. The resulting impact on the landscape at Killbear will be very noticeable this summer . And campsites throughout the park may have less shade than previous years due to cutting of trees infected with Beech Bark Disease.
For more information on Beech Bark Disease, refer to this Ontario Forest Research Institute Forest Research Note .