Laurel wilt & the redbay ambrosia beetles

The devastating damage caused by the deadly combination of laurel wilt and the redbay ambrosia beetle is unmistakable and is shown above in a photo taken in May of 2008 on Highway A1A.  This invasive disease carried by an invasive insect is thought to have entered the U.S. in South Carolina in wood packaging material.

Laurel wilt disease is a vascular disease caused by a fungus, Raffaelea lauricola, spread by an invasive plant-pest, the redbay ambrosia beetle (Xyleborus glabratus), that attacks members of the laurel family, Lauraceae.  Nearly all of the redbay trees (Persea borbonia) in Indian River County have been killed, and healthy green leaves quickly turn a sickly brown …

Redbay is sometimes identified by the distinctive galls on its leaf edges.  Its gallmaker is an insect, a psyllid.

Avocado (Persea americana) also is a member of the laurel family, and this invasive plant-pest may impact commercial avocado production in south Florida.  Dr. Amanda Hodges spoke about this plant-pest at the 2/16/2019 Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory Volunteer Nature Stewardship class, and it is included the ID card deck that she gave to each class participant, UF/Institute of Food and Agricultural Science/UF Identification Guide to Florida’s Invasive Plant-Pests.

Another member of the laurel family, lancewood (Ocotea coriacea), pictured below, is the predominant canopy tree near the north ORCA entrance.  Fortunately, it has not been the victim of laurel wilt.

Diseases like laurel wilt and the emerald ash borer can be spread by people who move firewood.  Don’t move firewood!

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