The ambrosia symbiosis: from evolutionary ecology to practical management.
The ambrosia beetle-fungus farming symbiosis is more heterogeneous than previously thought. There is not one but many ambrosia symbioses. Beetle-fungus specificity is clade dependent and ranges from strict to promiscuous. Each new origin has evolved a new mycangium. The most common relationship with host trees is colonization of freshly dead tissues, but there are also parasites of living trees, vectors of pathogenic fungi, and beetles living in rotten trees with a wood-decay symbiont. Most of these strategies are driven by fungal metabolism whereas beetle ecology is evolutionarily more flexible. The ambrosia lifestyle facilitated a radiation of social strategies, from fungus thieves to eusocial species to communities assembled by attraction to fungal scent. Although over 95% of the symbiotic pairs are economically harmless, there are also three types of pest damage: tree pathogen inoculation, mass accumulation on susceptible hosts, and structural damage. Beetles able to colonize live tree tissues are most likely to become invasive pests.