Spread, vector flight behavior, and impact of Laurel Wilt in Sassafras beyond the Gulf-Atlantic coastal plain.
Laurel wilt is a destructive vascular disease of trees in the laurel family (Lauraceae) caused by a nonnative insect/pathogen complex. This study monitored the recent spread and impact of laurel wilt in sassafras (Sassafras albidum [Nutt.] Nees) from the Gulf-Atlantic Coastal Plain region of the southeastern United States (US) into the adjacent Piedmont/Sandhills and Mountain regions. Laurel wilt was detected at thirteen of forty-six sassafras sites including seven outside the Coastal Plain. Compared to nondiseased sites, sassafras mortality due to laurel wilt increased rapidly from 2018 to 2020 and occurred in all diameter classes monitored (≥ 5 cm diameter at breast height, dbh). Flight trapping for the laurel wilt vector, the redbay ambrosia beetle (RAB, Xyleborus glabratus Eichhoff), with α-copaene lures did not enhance early detection of latent laurel wilt infections. Seasonal flight activity of the RAB in the Piedmont and Mountains suggested two generations per year with little to no flight from December through March.