The mysterious death of redbay trees on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina and surrounding areas was first reported in local newspapers in 2003. Thousands of redbays were dying in the low country of South Carolina, and by the end of 2004 officials on Hilton Head were estimating that they had lost 75-80% of the island's redbays.
Southern Research Station scientists and collaborators discovered that the cause of laurel wilt was a new species of fungus, Raffaellea lauricola, which is vectored by the Redbay Ambrosia Beetle, Xyleborus glabratus.
Studies of the beetle’s biology and life history determined that it attacked many members of the laurel family, including sassafras and avocado.
A comprehensive website on laurel wilt is maintained by USDA FS Forest Health Protection.