A potentially “large-scale” outbreak of the spruce budworm is currently making its presence known in areas around New Liskeard, federal scientists say.

“We’re at the start of an outbreak, and have a small infestation along the Ontario-Quebec border,” Canadian Forest Service scientist Chris MacQuarrie said this week from his Sault Ste. Marie office.

The budworm, which chomps on spruce and other fir needles while in its caterpillar stage, is a pernicious insect normally found in Northern Ontario’s boreal forest.

Outbreaks occur every 30 years or so and can last a few years.

“During an outbreak, spruce budworm kills large areas of forest, resulting in significant consequences for the tourism and forest industries,” said a Natural Resources Canada news release.

To help monitor Ontario’s outbreak, the federal government has since last year been providing volunteers with traps that capture the budworm after it has transformed into a moth.

The traps, which are monitored throughout the summer, don’t control the outbreak “but may give us an idea of where they are coming from,” said MacQuarrie.

In Ontario, about 20 traps have been issued, including areas in and around Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury.

The program is being offered again this season. Trap monitors are needed for areas west of Thunder Bay, said the news release.