The impact of phloem nutrients on overwintering mountain pine beetles and their fungal symbionts

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  • In the low nutrient environment of conifer bark, subcortical beetles often carry symbiotic fungi that concentrate nutrients in host tissues. Although bark beetles are known to benefit from these symbioses, whether this is because they survive better in nutrient-rich phloem is unknown. After manipulating phloem nutrition by fertilizing lodgepole pine trees (Pinus contorta Douglas var. latifolia), we found bolts from fertilized trees to contain more living individuals, and especially more pupae and teneral adults than bolts from unfertilized trees at our southern site. At our northern site, we found that a larger proportion of mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins) larvae built pupal chambers in bolts from fertilized trees than in bolts from unfertilized trees. The symbiotic fungi of the mountain pine beetle also responded to fertilization. Two mutualistic fungi of bark beetles, Grosmannia clavigera (Rob.-Jeffr. & R. W. Davidson) Zipfel, Z. W. de Beer, & M. J. Wingf. and Leptographium longiclavatum Lee, S., J. J. Kim, & C. Breuil, doubled the nitrogen concentrations near the point of infection in the phloem of fertilized trees. These fungi were less capable of concentrating nitrogen in unfertilized trees. Thus, the fungal symbionts of mountain pine beetle enhance phloem nutrition and likely mediate the beneficial effects of fertilization on the survival and development of mountain pine beetle larvae.

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    © 2012 Entomological Society of America. This article is the copyright property of the Entomological Society of America and may not be used for any commercial or other private purpose without specific written permission of the Entomological Society of America.
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    • Goodsman, D.W. Erbilgin, N. and Lieffers, V. J. (2012). The impact of phloem nutrients on overwintering mountain pine beetles and their fungal symbionts. Environmental Entomology 41(3): 478-486. doi: 10.1603/EN11205.