Public Release:  How is an ambrosia beetle threatening California's oak and avocado trees?

UC Riverside scientists will join colleagues to answer questions at public meeting on Aug. 14

University of California - Riverside

RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- An ambrosia beetle named Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer is an invasive pest that attacks oak and avocado trees, causing branch dieback and eventually death. The beetle bores into the trees and spreads a fungus that, in turn, attacks the vascular tissue of the tree and disrupts water and nutrient flow. The beetle also attacks Coast Live Oak, Box Elders and other trees.

Both the fungus and the beetle were discovered on several backyard avocado trees in residential neighborhoods and a commercial avocado grove in Los Angeles County in February and March 2012. (The beetle was previously misidentified as the Tea Shot Hole Borer. But subsequent DNA sequencing at the University of California, Riverside revealed the beetle to be different from the Tea Shot Hole Borer. The name Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer has been suggested for the beetle.) No effective solutions for eradicating the beetle have been found.

Scientists from the United States and abroad are meeting on Aug. 12-14, 2012, in Riverside, Calif., to discuss the beetle, its biology, the fungus it spreads, and strategies to effectively monitor and control the pest.

The public is invited to attend the free open session of the three-day meeting from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 14, at the Marriott Riverside Hotel, 3400 Market St., Riverside, Calif. At the public meeting, the scientists will address the new beetle/fungus complex and explain what problem it poses, the extent of the problem in California, what detection and control measures are currently available, and how Israel is dealing with the same pest. A Q&A period is scheduled for 4:25 p.m.

Ambrosia beetles typically live symbiotically with one or more fungi, which they spread into trees when they bore into the tree's tissue. When dieback begins, its symptoms include a white powdery exudate (either dry or surrounded by wet discoloration of the outer bark) around beetle entry holes in the bark.

The panelists at the open session are UC Riverside's Mary Lu Arpaia, a Cooperative Extension subtropical horticulturalist; Akif Eskalen, an extension plant pathologist; Mark Hoddle, the director of the Center for Invasive Species Research; Timothy Paine, a professor of entomology; and Richard Stouthamer, also a professor of entomology. They will be joined by Zvi Mendel of the Agricultural Research Organization, Israel; Donald Hodel, an environmental horticulturist for the University of California Cooperative Extension, Los Angeles County; Tom Roberts of the pest management industry; and Tom Coleman of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

Parking at the Marriott Riverside costs $4. Members of the public are advised to register their attendance by emailing mlarpaia@ucanr.edu. Seating is open and limited.

The three-day meeting is being sponsored by the UCR Center for Invasive Species Research, the Entomology, Plant Pathology and Microbiology, and Botany and Plant Sciences departments, UC Cooperative Extension, the Hofshi Foundation, the Los Angeles Arboretum, the Huntington Botanical Gardens and the California Avocado Commission.

The Hofshi Foundation is solely funding the event, which includes paying the airfares and lodging expenses for most people attending the three-day meeting from out of town.

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The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 20,500 students. The campus will open a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion. A broadcast studio with fiber cable to the AT&T Hollywood hub is available for live or taped interviews. UCR also has ISDN for radio interviews. To learn more, call (951) UCR-NEWS.

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