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Individual Highlight

Forest Service Scientists and Their International Collaborators Describe a Dangerous New “Mesoamerican Pine Beetle”

Photo of Newly described pine beetle, Dendroctonus mesoamericanus, initiating a mine into the bark of a healthy pine tree in Chiapas, Mexico.  The beetle is clearing liquid resin being released by the tree as a defensive reaction to prevent beetle entry.  Hundreds of attacks like this one by this species and its close relative the southern pine beetle, Dendroctonus frontalis, can deplete the resin and cause rapid death of the tree.  Once the tree is dead, the beetles feed and reproduce within the bark. USDA Forest ServiceNewly described pine beetle, Dendroctonus mesoamericanus, initiating a mine into the bark of a healthy pine tree in Chiapas, Mexico. The beetle is clearing liquid resin being released by the tree as a defensive reaction to prevent beetle entry. Hundreds of attacks like this one by this species and its close relative the southern pine beetle, Dendroctonus frontalis, can deplete the resin and cause rapid death of the tree. Once the tree is dead, the beetles feed and reproduce within the bark. USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : A newly discovered species of tree killing bark beetle in Central America, Dendroctonus mesoamericanus, has been recently described by an international team of scientists, including Forest Service research entomologist Brian Sullivan. The team provided critical information needed to manage the insect, which may be responsible for catastrophic damage to Mexican and Central American pine forests. It represents a previously unrecognized invasive threat to forestry in the U.S.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Sullivan, Brian 
Research Location : Upland tropical pine forests of Chiapas Mexico
Research Station : Southern Research Station (SRS)
Year : 2015
Highlight ID : 937

Summary

A newly discovered species of tree killing bark beetle in Central America, Dendroctonus mesoamericanus, has been described by a group of scientists including Forest Service research entomologist Brian Sullivan. Numerous studies by the team, which included scientists from the Forest Service’s Forest Health Protection Staff, Mexico, and Norway determined that the species is new to science and provided information needed to manage the insect, which may share responsibility with the southern pine beetle (Dendroctonus frontalis) for the catastrophic damage to pines in Central America in recent years. The two Dendroctonus species appear to work in cooperation to kill trees, and outbreaks of both may be more persistent and destructive than those of southern pine beetle alone. This discovery brings to light a potential exotic threat to the U.S. that was not previously known to exist.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Dr. Steve Clarke, USFS Forest Health Protection Region 8
  • Alicia Niño and Dr. Jorge Macías, ECOSUR Tapachula, Mexico
  • Dr. Gerardo Zúñiga and Francisco Armendáriz-Toledano, IPN Mexico City
  • Dr. Lawrence Kirkendall, University of Bergen, Norway

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