In July 2015 large insect traps were seen in a remote corner of Fineshade Wood. The traps were perhaps a metre high and were suspended above the vegetation from cables slung between the trees. Following up the contact details on the traps led to the following very helpful explanation from Dr Daegan Inward, a Research Entomologist, working in the research department of the Forestry Commission (FC).
Research by the Forestry Commission
The traps that you've seen are specifically targetting bark beetles, and are part of a UK-wide study exploring our forest bark beetle communities. Bark beetles tend to be decomposers and are an important part of our forest ecosystem, but amongst them are a few potential tree-killers which are expected to become more important as the climate becomes warmer and our forests are more frequently drought-stressed, so otherwise 'healthy' trees potentially become more susceptible to attack from the more aggressive bark beetle species.
We are addressing a few key questions with the study, including what bark beetle species have we got, and how does this vary in different forest types and localities across Britain. A big question is whether we have invasive (non-native) species already established in our woodlands, and if so what are they doing (i.e. are they potentially damaging, or capable of out-competing our native species). Further, can we determine whether particular forest types are more at threat from invasive species (for example - based on the principle that a healthy species-rich community of native species would be harder to invade than a species-poor community which would have less competition).
I hope this answers your question - Thanks for your interest in our work,
Dr Daegan Inward
Forest Research, Alice Holt Lodge, FarnhamSurrey GU10 4LH
There is more about FC research into Bark Beetles here www.forestry.gov.uk/greatsprucebeetle.
Damage done by Bark Beetles
Below is an image of Bark Beetle "galleries" formed by the larvae of the conifer bark beetle [Tomicus minor]. The female lays her eggs under the bark of a conifer [in this case pine] and the larvae, as they emerge, eat their way away from the laying point, to leave the characteristic pattern when the bark finally falls off. These beetles are scolytids, as are those that transmit dutch-elm disease.
M J Richardson [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons