- Author: Michael Jones
The Mediterranean oak borer (Xyleborus monographus), or MOB, is an invasive ambrosia beetle that was first collected from declining oak trees (Quercus spp.) near Calistoga (Napa County) in 2019 (Fig 1). Subsequently in early 2020, the beetle was detected in the neighboring counties of Lake and Sonoma, and more recently a separate infestation was discovered in suburbs near Sacramento. MOB is native to the Mediterranean regions of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa and was likely introduced to North America in infested wood material. Within its native range MOB is a pest primarily of dead and dying oaks. In California, MOB has been detected in valley oak (Q. lobata) and blue oak (Q. douglasii). Given the cryptic nature of the insect, the extent of the infestations, and presence of dead trees with evidence of the beetle, the insect has likely been in California for more than five years.
Ambrosia beetles are interesting insects because they carry symbiotic ambrosia fungi which they cultivate along their galleries (boring tunnels) for food. Most ambrosia fungi are weak pathogens (typically only colonizing the tissue near the galleries), but a fungus associated with MOB, Raffaelea montetyi, appears to cause wilt disease in cork oaks in Portugal. This fungus and several others associated with MOB, have been recovered from infested trees in California and research is underway to determine if these ambrosia fungi could cause similar diseases in North American oak species.
MOB appears to initially attack the canopy of host trees where it kills branches, with persistent infestations spreading to the main stem and eventually killing the tree (Fig. 2). The extensive network of MOB galleries can weaken trees and make them more susceptible to failure. Thus far, trees in California with MOB infestations appear to have been stressed by other biotic and abiotic factors prior to MOB colonization, so it is unclear if the insect and its ambrosia fungi can infest and kill healthy trees.
Signs of MOB infested trees are declining canopies, tiny exit holes and boring dust in cracks of the bark, and occasionally sap flux; however, these symptoms could be caused by other boring insects or diseases. The best way to detect MOB infested trees is to observe the pattern of canopy decline. MOB begins by colonizing a large branch in the upper canopy, so newly infested trees will often have one declining branch while the rest of the canopy appears healthy. As the infestation progresses, the entire canopy begins to decline and in some instances, heavily infested branches can produce extensive epicormic sprouting with leaves diminished in size and densely clustered (sometimes referred to as “popcorn foliage”). The most reliable way to confirm MOB is from the architecture of its galleries, which are trellis-like, intersecting, and fan out in a single plane (Fig. 3A). These gallery patterns distinguish it from native Monarthrum spp. of ambrosia beetles, which have galleries branching from a single point and do not intersect neighboring galleries (Fig. 3B). These native beetles will only attack trees that are already dead, dying, or diseased.
Research is currently underway to determine the extent of the two infestations and to find effective management strategies to control MOB. From other similar invasive insects, such as the shot hole borer in southern California, options like chipping (≤1” size), solarization, burning, or burying infested material will likely be crucial in mitigating spread. However, since infestations can be cryptic for several years, there is significant potential for the beetle's range to expand as they can be moved in infested wood and are capable fliers. The best method of control is preventing the movement of the insect and its host material from known infested areas. For more information, please visit: ucanr.edu/sites/mobpc.
If you have a tree that you believe to be infested, please contact the California Department of Food and Agriculture:
- Pest Hotline: 1-800-491-1899
- Report a Pest: cdfa.ca.gov/plant/reportapest/
Michael I. Jones, PhD, UC Cooperative Extension Forest Advisor, Mendocino, Lake, & Sonoma County, email@example.com, (707) 463-4495
- Author: Mary Louise Flint
- Posted by: Susie Kocher
Memorial Day weekend, traditionally considered the beginning of California's camping season, is right around the corner. If you are preparing for an upcoming trip, keep in mind that you can help protect California's forests by buying firewood from a local source near the campsite rather than bringing it with you.
When people move wood from place to place, they may also be moving invasive insects and diseases that threaten California's landscape and wildland trees. The goldspotted oak borer, which is devastating native oaks in San Diego, was likely brought there from Arizona in firewood. The polyphagous shothole borer, walnut twig beetle and thousand cankers disease, and the pathogen causing sudden oak disease, all continue to spread to new areas on infested wood chips, plant debris, or wood moved for woodworking or firewood.
Over the past year, the California Firewood Task Force has asked the public to "buy it where you burn it"—that is, don't bring wood from home when you camp, do use wood from local sources, and leave leftover wood at the campsite for the next camper. Even if wood does not appear to have borer holes or other evidence of pests, don't assume that the wood is pest free. Be on the safe side and don't move it.
The California Forest Pest Council established the Task Force in 2011 to educate Californians about what they can do to prevent movement of invasive pests in wood. The Task Force developed a Web site, put up billboards across California, sponsored children's activities at parks and fairs, encouraged campgrounds to sell only local firewood, gave presentations across the state, and developed best management practices, posters, and other information to engage the public.
For more information visit www.firewood.ca.gov/.
- Author: Mary Lou Flint
- Posted by: Susie Kocher
UC IPM released a new Pest Note in January 2013 on the goldspotted oak borer. This Pest Note has the first official UC guidelines for managing the pest.
The most seriously damaged oaks are those in the red oak group including coast live oak, Quercus agrifolia, and black oak, Q. kelloggi. It also infests canyon live oak, Q. chrysolepis but has not been found to kill the other native oak species in the area, the Englemann oak, Q. englemanni. So far losses have been most serious in parks and forested areas, but landscape trees are also being killed.
A new Pest Note from the UC IPM program outlines management guidelines for this serious pest. Flatheaded borers such as GSOB are difficult to manage and seriously infested trees cannot be saved. The primary way GSOB spreads into new areas is through the movement of infested wood and the authors recommend leaving infested wood on site for 2 years. If wood is to be moved, the Pest Note provides guidelines for treating it through containment, grinding, and debarking. Guidelines for replanting infested areas, less susceptible oak species, biological control, insecticide applications and developing GSOB management plans are also described.
Many other borers attack oaks but do not kill trees. GSOB infested trees can be distinguished by the characteristic D-shaped emergence holes it leaves behind. A special feature of the Pest Note is a table illustrating the emergence holes of borer species on southern California oaks. Many photos are also included.
The information in this Pest Note: Goldspotted Oak Borer is based primarily on research studies by the authors: Mary Louise Flint (UCIPM and Entomology/UC Davis), Tom Coleman and Steve Seybold (USDA/US Forest Service), and Mike Jones (Entomology/UC Davis). Find it at http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74163.html