Vertical distribution and daily flight periodicity of ambrosia beetles (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) in Florida avocado orchards affected by laurel wilt.
Ambrosia beetles have emerged as significant pests of avocado ((Persea americana Mill. [Laurales: Lauraceae])) due to their association with pathogenic fungal symbionts, most notably Raffaelea lauricola T.C. Harr., Fraedrich & Aghayeva (Ophiostomatales: Ophiostomataceae), the causal agent of the laurel wilt (LW) disease. We evaluated the interaction of ambrosia beetles with host avocado trees by documenting their flight height and daily flight periodicity in Florida orchards with LW. Flight height was assessed passively in three avocado orchards by using ladder-like arrays of unbaited sticky traps arranged at three levels (low: 0-2 m; middle: 2-4 m; high: 4-6 m). In total, 1,306 individuals of 12 Scolytinae species were intercepted, but six accounted for ∼95% of the captures: Xyleborus volvulus (Fabricius) (Coleoptera: Curculionidae), Xyleborinus saxesenii Ratzeburg (Coleoptera: Curculionidae), Euplatypus parallelus (Fabricius) (Coleoptera: Curculionidae), Xyleborus bispinatus Eichhoff (Coleoptera: Curculionidae), Xyleborus affinis Eichhoff (Coleoptera: Curculionidae), and Hypothenemus sp. (Coleoptera: Curculionidae). The primary vector of R. lauricola, Xyleborus glabratus Eichhoff (Coleoptera: Curculionidae), was not detected. Females of X. volvulus showed a preference for flight at low levels and X. bispinatus for the low and middle levels; however, captures of all other species were comparable at all heights. At a fourth orchard, a baiting method was used to document flight periodicity. Females of X. saxesenii and Hypothenemus sp. were observed in flight 2-2.5 h prior to sunset; X. bispinatus, X. volvulus, and X. affinis initiated flight at ∼1 h before sunset and Xylosandrus crassiusculus (Motschulsky) (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) at 30 min prior to sunset. Results suggest that ambrosia beetles in South Florida fly near sunset (when light intensity and wind speed decrease) at much greater heights than previously assumed and have species-specific patterns in host-seeking flight.