Reproduction and potential range expansion of walnut twig beetle across the Juglandaceae.
Biological invasions by insects that vector plant pathogens have altered the composition of natural and urban forests. Thousand cankers disease is a new, recent example and is caused by the complex of walnut twig beetle, Pityophthorus juglandis, and the fungus, Geosmithia morbida, on susceptible hosts, notably some Juglans spp. and Pterocarya spp. Host colonization by P. juglandis may be particularly important for disease development, but the beetle's host range is not known. In the United States and Italy, this insect has expanded its geographic range by colonizing naïve hosts. The objective of this study was to characterize limits to, and variation within, the host range of P. juglandis and infer the extent to which hosts might constrain the geographic distribution of the insect. We examined colonization and reproduction by P. juglandis in no-choice laboratory experiments with 11 Juglans spp., one Pterocarya sp., and two Carya spp. over 2 years and found that all but the Carya spp. were hosts. Reproduction was generally greater on Juglans californica, J. hindsii, and J. nigra, than on J. ailantifolia, J. cathayensis, J. cinerea, J. major, J. mandshurica, J. microcarpa, or J. regia. Escape of an insect vector into populations of evolutionary-naïve hosts can facilitate rapid range expansion by the pest and massive mortality to hosts. Multi-continental plantings of suitable species may facilitate geographic range expansion of P. juglandis and place other, native Juglans spp. at risk.