Tiny, eight-toothed beetles have eaten most of the spruce trees in Germany's Harz mountains

The voracious bark beetle, described by the Associated Press as being about the size of a "sesame seed," is laying waste to spruce trees in northern Germany due to its outsized appetite.

Bark beetles, sometimes referred to as "book printers" because the trails they leave in the wood while eating resemble writing, used to consume only a few spruce trees each year. However, global warming has caused the trees to become drier and, therefore, more appealing to the beetles. As a result, two-thirds of the spruce trees in the region have died from bark beetle infestations.

Alexander Ahrenhold, from the Lower Saxony state forestry office, told AP that recent dry years have caused the bark beetle population to explode. He said, "the beetles were even able to attack healthy spruce in large numbers. In some regions, there are now no more spruces."

Options for addressing the problem are limited. As reported by AP:

Michael Müller, the Chair of Forest Protection at the Technical University in Dresden, said there are "very strict requirements for the use of pesticides" which can be very effective in getting rid of the bugs, although the chemicals are sometimes frowned upon for their potentially harmful environmental side effects.

"It's of course preferable to take the raw wood out of the forest and send it for recycling or to store it in non-endangered areas outside the forest," he said, but noted that requires a separate logistical operation. On trees that are still standing, he said, it's not really possible to remove the beetles.