A newly-discovered species of tree-killing bark beetle, Dendroctonusmesoamericanus Armendáriz-Toledano and Sullivan, has been described in a paper published online in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America by a group of researchers that includes a U.S. Forest Service scientist.
Numerous and diverse studies by a research team that includes members from the U.S., Mexico, and Norway determined the organism to be a species new to science and provided information needed to manage the insect, which may share responsibility with the southern pine beetle for catastrophic damage to pines of Central America in recent years.
Bark beetles of the genus Dendroctonus rank high among the most destructive conifer pests and include the southern pine beetle, which attacks pines from New Jersey to Texas and south to Nicaragua, as well as the mountain pine beetle recently causing extensive tree mortality in the Western U.S. and Canada. In recent decades, massive beetle attacks in Central America attributed to southern pine beetle have led to declines in pine forests and multimillion dollar losses in timber, recreation, and other ecosystem services.
"A thorough understanding of this species complex – the southern and mesoamerican pine beetle acting in concert -- may prove critical for developing integrated pest management strategies for the Central American region," said Dr. Brian Sullivan, research entomologist with the USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station. "This discovery also brings to light a potential exotic threat to the U.S. that was not previously known to exist."