Disturbance Ecology of the Southern Pine Beetle (Dendroctonus frontalis Zimmermann)
Historically, southern pine beetle (SPB) is the most destructive forest insect pest in the southeastern U.S.A. An annual spring SPB survey conducted for the last 25 years has been a key predictive tool used throughout the southeastern U.S.A. Recently, SPB outbreaks have been sporadic and hard to predict, and the spring survey has failed to predict SPB outbreaks in both New Jersey (2010) and Mississippi (2012-2014). The 2012 outbreak in MS alone required expenditures of 1.3 million dollars in detection and suppression funds, not including salaries. Earlier recognition of the incipient outbreaks can reduce expenditures and resource loss. One hypothesis for the current model’s failure to indicate elevated SPB hazard is that SPB phenology, distribution, and behavior have shifted in response to climate change. We are investigating the effects of climate-driven environmental changes on SPB outbreaks across the eastern U.S.A. Results from this research will include the development of a degree-day peak flight model for SPB (which will be available via a web/smartphone app). This new model will optimize spring SPB trap deployment and test the efficacy of the standard SPB monitoring and prediction system. Moreover, this project will explore how climate change influences SPB phenology and distribution via impacting important SPB symbionts such as mites and fungi, and the value of utilizing new pheromone lures on spring survey traps.