- Author: Frank Byrne, Akif Eskalen and Joe Morse
Two closely related Ambrosia beetles (Euwallacea sp.) have been identified in commercial avocado groves in California. The polyphagous shot hole borer (PSHB), detected in Los Angeles, Orange counties and recently in Ventura county, and the Kuroshio shot hole borer (KSHB), detected in San Diego and recently in Orange and Santa Barbara counties, are morphologically indistinguishable, but genetically distinct. Already widespread in a variety of reproductive host trees common in the urban landscape (including box elder, willow, several maples, oak and sycamore species), the beetles represent a significant threat to trees in both landscape and agricultural settings. Adult females construct galleries in the xylem system of host trees, where they cultivate symbiotic fungi (Fusarium, Paracremonium and Graphium spp.) as a food source for their developing young. The fungi are taken up by progeny females in specialized organs within their mouthparts, and transported to other sites within the same tree, where new colonies are established, or to newly colonized hosts. The galleries compromise the structural integrity of infested trees, which can represent a serious safety hazard in urban environments, and disrupt the flow of water and essential nutrients within the xylem. In addition to the physical damage, the fungi extract nutrients from the xylem system, further depriving the tree of nutrients essential for healthy growth and fruit production.
An effective biological control agent is not yet available to manage the SHB in California, and so management for now must rely on the use of chemical pesticides. The control of Ambrosia beetles and their associated fungi using
chemical pesticides is complicated because of their location inside the host trees. The application of insecticides to the external surfaces of trees, where the beetles must first alight prior to boring, has the potential to kill beetles by contact activity, and they may also have the potential to control emerging young adults before they can re-infest the trees.
The drawback of surface treatments is that multiple applications are often required because of the relatively short duration of efficacy. In addition, once the beetle burrows inside the tree, surface treatments are become ineffective. One possible solution to this problem may be the use of systemic pesticides, and scientists at UC Riverside are evaluating the use of both systemic insecticides and fungicides in a 2-pronged attack against the symbiotic system.
Systemic pesticides are mobile within the xylem system of plants, and the fungicides could potentially target the fungi growing in the xylem and deprive the beetle larvae of a food source. The insecticides would prevent the beetle from establishing galleries within susceptible tree hosts, and prevent the survival of beetles and their offspring already present within trees. The big problem with systemic pesticides is getting sufficient concentrations of chemicals to the areas within the trees where the beetle and fungus occur. Although there are exceptions, most systemic treatments are administered to the soil for uptake through the roots. However, in mature avocado groves, the high organic matter content of the soil can prevent effective absorption by roots because the pesticide becomes bound to organic components within the soil. Trunk injection of pesticides directly into the vascular system of trees eliminates the potential for binding of pesticides within the soil, and increases the amount of active ingredient inside the tree available to impact the beetle/fungal system. Systemic pesticides must be formulated for trunk injection and so careful evaluation is needed to ensure optimal efficacy. Trials are being conducted with the assistance of avocado industry and grower collaborators in areas where the SHB has been recorded. The chemicals are injected into the trees using commercially available equipment, and the movement of the active ingredients is then monitored over time in wood core samples taken at different heights of the trees. Two methods are being used to confirm the presence of the chemicals. Insecticides are being quantified using ELISAs that are specific for the active ingredients under investigation. Wood cores taken from trees treated with fungicides are placed in direct proximity to the fungal pathogens growing on agar plates to determine if growth of the fungus is inhibited.
The investigations are still at an early stage, but the researchers are optimistic that they will develop effective control strategies for the SHB that growers can incorporate into their overall pest management programs. Laboratory based bioassays have been used to identify several pesticides that are toxic to the beetle and fungi. The objective of the field trials is to determine whether these chemicals can be utilized as trunk injection agents for the protection of avocado trees. Anyone interested in finding out more about the SHB should go to the web site maintained by Dr. Akif Eskalen at:
There's a lot of work being done in Florida on a pest/disease complex like we have here with Shot Hole Borer and Fusarium fungus – Fusarium Dieback. This hits avocados and a lot of other native trees like sycamore, willow and coast live oak. Some of the success in Florida may be applicable and we are working with their researchers there to adapt some of the techniques here.
Redbay ambrosia beetle, Xyleborus glabratus, is a wood-boring pest that has now invaded nine states in the southeastern United States. The beetle's dominant fungal symbiont (Raffaelea lauricola) is phytopathogenic, inducing laurel wilt in trees within the family Lauraceae. Members of the genus Persea are particularly susceptible to the lethal disease, including native redbay (P. borbonia) and swampbay (P. palustris), as well as commercial avocado. Cubeb oil lures are the current standard for detection of X. glabratus, but recently eucalyptol and a 50% α-copaene oil have been identified as additional attractants. This study used a combination of choice bioassays, field cage release-and-recapture assays, and a 12-week field trial to compare efficacy of eucalyptol and copaene lures relative to commercial cubeb lures. In addition, gas chromatography (analyzer for volatiles) was used to quantify emissions from lures field-aged for 12 wk. In field cage assays, copaene lures recaptured a higher percentage of released beetles than cubeb lures. In the field test, cubeb lures captured fewer beetles than copaene lures, and lowest captures were obtained with eucalyptol lures. Both copaene and cubeb lures were effective in attracting X. glabratus for 12 weeks, but field life of eucalyptol lures was only 4 weeks, consistent with the quantification of lure emissions. Results suggest that the 50% α-copaene lure provides the best pest detection currently available for X. glabratus.
So why is this important? For one, it will serve as a tool for more effectively monitoring the presents of the beetle. But more importantly, it might be used as a lure to attract them away from trees. Fool them into going somewhere else, like to die.
But here's the abstract:
The polyphagous shot hole borer (PSHB) is an invasive ambrosia bee-tle that forms a symbiosis with a new, Fusarium sp., together causing Fusarium dieback on avocado and other host plants in California and Israel. In California, PSHB was first reported on black locust in 2003 but there were no records of fungal damage until 2012, when a Fusarium sp.was recovered from the tissues of several backyard avocado trees infested with PSHB in Los Angeles County. The aim of this study was to determine the plant host range of the beetle–fungus complex in two heavily infested botanical gardens in Los Angeles County. Of the 335 tree species observed, 207 (62%), representing 58 plant families, showed signs and symptoms consistent with attack by PSHB. The Fusarium sp. was recovered from 54% of the plant species attacked by PSHB, indicated by the presence of the Fusarium sp. at least at the site of the entry hole. Trees attacked by PSHB included 11 species of California natives, 13 agriculturally important species, and many common street trees. Survey results also revealed 19 tree species that function as reproductive hosts for PSHB., approximately a quarter of all tree individuals planted along the streets of southern California belong to a species classified as a reproductive host. These data suggest the beetle–disease complex potentially may establish in a variety of plant communities locally and worldwide.
A PSHB conference is set for February 18 at the Huntington Library in San Marino. For registration contact:
A note from UC Riverside Plant Pathologist, Akif Eskalen
We just confirmed that the riparian forest in the Tijuana river valley in San Diego is infested with Kuroshio Shot Hole Borer. Rod Dossey and his team from WRA, Environmental Consultants first noticed the sign and symptoms of the beetle on Sept 25th, and contacted us for the confirmation. I have visited the site last week and mortality is already occurring on many trees including Arroyo Willow, Black Willow and Castor Bean. Please let me know if you have any questions.
PSHB/KSHB distribution map
- Author: Akif Eskalen
The Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer (PSHB), Euwallacea sp. #1, is an invasive beetle that carries three fungi: Fusarium euwallaceae, Graphium sp. , and Acremonium sp. The adult female tunnels galleries into a wide variety of host trees, where it lays its eggs and grows the fungi. The fungi cause the Fusarium Dieback (FD) disease, which interrupts the transport of water and nutrients in over 35 tree species that are suitable for beetle reproduction.
Once the beetle/fungal complex has killed the host tree, pregnant females fly in search of a new host.
A separate invasion was recently detected in commercial avocado groves and landscape trees in San Diego county. It has been determined that the damage has been caused by another closely related species of PSHB (Euwallacea sp. #2), carrying a new species of Fusarium and Graphium. The beetle in LA, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties are morphologically indistinguishable, but genetically distinct from the beetle found in San Diego County.
Signs and Symptoms
Attack symptoms, a host tree's visible response to stress, vary among host species. Staining, sugary exudate (B), gumming, and/or frass may be noticeable before the tiny beetles (females are typically 1.8-2.5 mm long). Beneath or near these symptoms, you may also see the beetle's entry/exit holes, which are ~0.85 mm in diameter. The abdomen of the female beetle can sometimes be seen sticking out of the hole.
Sugary exudate on trunks or branches may indicate a PSHB attack (photos A-E). Note that exudate may be washed off after rain events and therefore may not always be present on a
heavily infested branch.
PSHB attacks hundreds of tree species, but it can only successfully lay its eggs and/or grow the fungi in certain hosts. These include: Avocado, Box elder, California sycamore, Coast live oak, White alder, Japanese maple, and Red willow. Visit eskalenlab.ucr.edu for the full list.
Fusarium dieback pathogens cause brown to black discoloration in infected wood. Scraping away bark over the entry/exit hole reveals dark staining around the gallery, and cross sections of cut branches show the extent of infection. Advanced infections eventually lead to branch dieback and death of the tree
How to report a suspect tree
Please report suspected tree infestations to UC Riverside (email@example.com).
Submit the following information:
•Contact information (name, city, phone number, email)
•Suspect tree species
•Description of suspect tree's location (and/or GPS coordinates)
•Description of suspect tree's symptoms
•Photos of suspect tree and close-up photos of symptoms (see examples)
Take photos of suspect trees from several distances. Include photos of:
1. the trunk or symptomatic branches;
2. the symptoms (close-up); and
3. the entry/exit hole, if visible, with a ballpoint pen for scale (remove exudate if necessary). If dieback is observed, take a picture of the entire tree.