Carbohydrate reserves, radial growth, and mechanisms of resistance of oak trees to phloem-boring insects

James P. Dunn, Daniel A. Potter, Thomas W. Kimmerer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


The twolined chestnut borer, Agrilus bilineatus (Weber) (Coleoptera: Buprestidae), attacks oaks (Quercus spp.) that have been weakened by prior environmental or biotic stress. Our earlier work showed that trees with relatively low winter starch reserves are more likely to be attacked by A. bilineatus the following summer. We hypothesized that such trees may have less energy available for defense (Callus formation and allelo-chemical synthesis) in tissues wounded by borer larvae. However, wounding experiments showed little or no relationship between winter or summer carbohydrate reserves, callus formation, radial growth, or concentrations of tannins and phenolics in wounded or nonwounded phloem tissues. Trees with relatively low winter carbohydrate reserves were again found to be attractive to adult A. bilineatus, although not all low starch trees were attacked or successfully colonized by borers. There was a trend for carpenterworm larvae, Prinoxystus robiniae (Lepidoptera: Cossidae), a generalist bark and wood borer, to be more successful in establishing galleries on low starch trees. Carpenterworms gained significantly more weight when fed phloem from trees attractive to A. bilineatus. Oaks that attracted large numbers of A. bilineatus or that were successfully colonized by the borer produced significantly less callus than did non-attacked trees when experimentally wounded at about the time of Agrilus egg hatch. Callus formation may limit the establishment of small larvae that feed slowly in the cambial region. These results indicate that current theory regarding relationships between increased tree stress and decreased allocation of energy reserves to radial growth and defense against phloem borers may be an oversimplification. We suggest that tree growth and the defensive response of phloem tissues may be limited more by the rate of carbohydrate utilization or by changes in source-sink relationships than by storage levels. Callus formation and synthesis of allelochemicals in wounded phloem may be under the same control as cambial activation, which is mediated by plant growth regulators and can be influenced by environmental conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)458-468
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1990


  • Agrilus bilineatus
  • Buprestidae
  • Carbon allocation
  • Prionoxystus robiniae
  • Quercus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Carbohydrate reserves, radial growth, and mechanisms of resistance of oak trees to phloem-boring insects'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this