Presence of the causal agent of laurel wilt disease in sassafras-associated insects

Morgan C. Knutsen, Lynne K. Rieske

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Laurel wilt disease (LWD) is a lethal vascular wilt caused by an exotic ambrosia beetle–fungal complex, the redbay ambrosia beetle, Xyleborus glabratus Eichhoff, and its nutritional symbiont, Harringtonia lauricola (Harr., Fraedrich & Aghayeva) de Beer & Procter. LWD is responsible for the widespread mortality of redbay, Persea borbonia (L.) Spreng., devastating coastal forests in the southeast United States. More recently, LWD is causing mortality of understory sassafras, Sassafras albidum (Nutt.) Nees, in deciduous forests in Kentucky, USA; the biology, epidemiology, and long-term impacts of LWD in deciduous forests are unclear. All North American lauraceous species evaluated have shown susceptibility, and numerous additional ambrosia beetles have demonstrated vector potential, but no studies to date have assessed the presence of H. lauricola in other insects associated with LWD-infected sassafras. We sampled infected sassafras from the leading edge of the LWD range and collected insect associates to evaluate phoretic and internal presence of H. lauricola. We recorded 118 individuals of 38 morphospecies emerging; most were Coleoptera. Of the 48 specimens evaluated for H. lauricola, none tested positive for phoretic presence, but internal presence was evident in the granulate ambrosia beetle, Xylosandrus crassiusculus Motschulsky, and in a hidden snout weevil, Apteromechus ferratus Say. This is the first report of H. lauricola associated with a non-ambrosia beetle and expands our understanding of the vector potential of additional insect species while confirming the role of the granulate ambrosia beetle.These findings contribute to our understanding of LWD epidemiology in sassafras hosts from more northerly latitudes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1042-1047
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Entomology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Entomological Society of America. All rights reserved.


  • Apteromechus
  • Xyleborus
  • Xylosandrus
  • invasive species
  • redbay ambrosia beetle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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