Biology and Host Associations of Redbay Ambrosia Beetle (Coleoptera: Curculionidae: Scolytinae), Exotic Vector of Laurel Wilt Killing Redbay Trees in the Southeastern United States

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Abstract:

The redbay ambrosia beetle, Xyleborus glabratus Eichhoff (Coleoptera: Curculionidae: Scolytinae), and its fungal symbiont, Raffaelea sp., are new introductions to the southeastern United States responsible for the wilt of mature redbay, Persea borbonia (L.) Spreng., trees. In 2006 and 2007, we investigated the seasonal flight activity of X. glabratus, its host associations, and population levels at eight locations in South Carolina and Georgia where infestations ranged from very recent to at least several years old. Adults were active throughout the year with peak activity in early September. Brood development seems to take 50–60 d. Wood infested with beetles and infected with the Raffaelea sp. was similar in attraction to uninfested redbay wood, whereas both were more attractive than a nonhost species. Sassafras, Sassafras albidium (Nutt.) Nees, another species of Lauraceae, was not attractive to X. glabratus and very few beetle entrance holes were found in sassafras wood compared with redbay. Conversely, avocado, Persea americana Mill., was as attractive to X. glabratus as swampbay, P. palustris (Raf.) Sarg., and both were more attractive than the nonhost red maple, Acer rubrum L. However, avocado had relatively few entrance holes in the wood. In 2007, we compared X. glabratus populations in areas where all mature redbay have died to areas where infestations were very active and more recent. Trap catches of X. glabratus and numbers of entrance holes in trap bolts of redbay were correlated with the number of dead trees with leaves attached. Older infestations where mature host trees had been eliminated by the wilt had low numbers of beetles resulting in trap catches ranging from 0.04 to 0.12 beetles per trap per d compared with 4–7 beetles per trap per d in areas with numerous recently dead trees. Our results indicate beetle populations drop dramatically after suitable host material is gone and provide hope that management strategies can be developed to restore redbay trees. The lack of attraction of X. glabratus to sassafras suggests that spread of X. glabratus may slow once it is outside the range of redbay.

Keywords: Lauraceae; exotic species; invasive species; laurel wilt

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2008

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