Southern Pine Beetle Behavior and Semiochemistry

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The southern pine beetle (SPB) feeds both as adults and larvae within the inner bark of pine trees, which invariably die as a result of colonization. Populations of the SPB erupt periodically and produce catastrophic losses of pines, while at other times the beetles persist almost undetectably in the environment. The southern pine beetle has evolved behaviors that maximize its survival and reproduction when local population densities are either high or low. When densities are high, the SPB utilizes pheromones to organize synchronous mass attacks capable of overwhelming the resin defenses of healthy, vigorous trees. They thereby render hosts available to colonization that would not be susceptible to attack by one or a few individuals. When densities are low, the SPB must find and utilize trees that have been previously rendered susceptible by either abiotic factors, particularly lightning strikes, or biotic stressing agents such as attacks by other bark beetle species. This chapter reviews existing knowledge of the behavior and chemical ecology (i.e., use of chemical signals including pheromones) of the SPB and addresses how these aspects of SPB biology may either facilitate or hinder efforts to manage this virulent forest pest.

"All color photographs in chapter by Erich G. Vallery, US Forest Service”

  • Citation: Sullivan, Brian T. 2011. Southern Pine Beetle Behavior and Semiochemistry. In: Coulson, R.N.; Klepzig, K.D. 2011. Southern Pine Beetle II. Gen. Tech. Rep. SRS-140. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Southern Research Station. 25-50. "

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