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Redbay Ambrosia Beetle

Description of Beetle    Picture of Redbay Ambrosia Beetle    

The Redbay Ambrosia Beetle is a small brownish - black beetle that is similar in appearance to other beetles found in Florida.  Males are flightless and smaller than females who are very strong fliers.
Adults do not feed on the bark of the tree, but rather on the fungus that is produced from the females that bore into the tree.  Adult females bore into the inner bark of the tree and introduce the Laurel Wilt Fungus from spores she carries in her mouth. 
When she boresRedbay Ambrosia Beetle into the wood, the spores of the fungus get on the sap of the tree and germinate, blocking the trees natural water and nutrients.  As the fungus grows, other redbay ambrosia beetles and larva feed on the fungus. 

As the female redbay ambrosia beetle bores tunnels into the wood, she lays her eggs in galleries. These eggs hatch and the larvae feed on the fungus, pupate and change into adults.  Only one female beetle is needed to establish a new population.  Unmated females lay eggs that hatch as males, while mated females lay eggs that hatch as females.  Multiple generations are produced per year.
Only the female beetles are able to fly and initiate attacks on a new host of trees.

The Redbay Ambrosia Beetle was first detected in Wentworth, Georgia in 2002 and spread into South Carolina and Florida.  The Laurel Wilt Fungus the beetle produces causes its host to wilt and die within a few weeks or months of infestation.  Redbay Ambrosia Beetles attack members of the Lauraceae family including the redbay, swampbay, sassafras, pondberry, camphor tree and pondspice. 
As a native of Asia, this beetle has been known for only attacking diseased and dying trees, however since their introduction into North America, they have attacked both diseased and healthy trees. T hey have also attacked avocado trees, which raises fears because it is one of Florida's most important crops.

Redbay trees are also important to wildlife and vital to Florida’s environment.  The tree provides fruit for song birds, turkey, quail, deer and black bears.  The larvae of the Palamedes swallowtail butterfly use redbay leaves for its development.  Redbay trees also help in Florida’s erosion prevention by hugging the edges of swamps, rivers and creeks and help anchor the coastal shoreline. 

The Redbay Ambrosia beetle is found from coastal Virginia to Eastern Texas and the coastal areas of North and South Carolina, Georgia, southern Alabama and Mississippi, parts of Louisiana and all of Florida.  As of the end of 2007, infestation have been detected in more than thirty counties in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina all along the coast.  Since the beginning of 2008 a few new counties reported an infestation, showing that this vicious beetle is slowly and steadily working its way westward.  Research has indicated that the current rate of movement for this beetle is twenty miles per year.

Credits:
Our thanks to Lani Powell for research and writing which made this Redbay Ambrosia Beetle information page possible!

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Picture of Redbay Ambrosia Beetle   Redbay Ambrosia Beetle Information