Non-native ambrosia beetles as opportunistic exploiters of living but weakened trees

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Abstract

Exotic Xylosandrus spp. ambrosia beetles established in non-native habitats have been associated with sudden and extensive attacks on a diverse range of living trees, but factors driving their shift from dying/dead hosts to living and healthy ones are not well understood. We sought to characterize the role of host physiological condition on preference and colonization by two invaders, Xylosandrus germanus and Xylosandrus crassiusculus. When given free-choice under field conditions among flooded and non-flooded deciduous tree species of varying intolerance to flooding, beetles attacked flood-intolerant tree species over more tolerant species within 3 days of initiating flood stress. In particular, flood-intolerant flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) sustained more attacks than flood-tolerant species, including silver maple (Acer saccharinum) and swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor). Ethanol, a key host-derived attractant, was detected at higher concentrations 3 days after initiating flooding within stems of flood intolerant species compared to tolerant and non-flooded species. A positive correlation was also detected between ethanol concentrations in stem tissue and cumulative ambrosia beetle attacks. When adult X. germanus and X. crassiusculus were confined with no-choice to stems of flood-stressed and non-flooded C. florida, more ejected sawdust resulting from tunneling activity was associated with the flood-stressed trees. Furthermore, living foundresses, eggs, larvae, and pupae were only detected within galleries created in stems of flood-stressed trees. Despite a capability to attack diverse tree genera, X. germanus and X. crassiusculus efficiently distinguished among varying host qualities and preferentially targeted trees based on their intolerance of flood stress. Non-flooded trees were not preferred or successfully colonized. This study demonstrates the host-selection strategy exhibited by X. germanus and X. crassiusculus in non-native habitats involves detection of stress-induced ethanol emission and early colonization of living but weakened trees.

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Ranger, C. M., Schultz, P. B., Frank, S. D., Chong, J. H., & Reding, M. E. (2015). Non-native ambrosia beetles as opportunistic exploiters of living but weakened trees. PLoS ONE, 10(7). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0131496

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