UF/IFAS study on luring, trapping dangerous beetle wins prestigious award

 

Dr. Lukasz Stelinski, assistant professor of entomology and nematology.  2009 Annual Research Report photo by Tyler Jones.

Please see caption below the story

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Royal Entomological Society has awarded its 2016 Best Paper Award to a paper written by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers. The paper was based on a study about a new way to monitor and trap a beetle that transmits a dangerous pathogen to certain trees.

Lukasz Stelinski, an associate professor of entomology at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center, spearheaded the study in which investigators came up with a synthetic aroma to lure redbay ambrosia beetles into traps.

“Identifying an effective lure for the beetle is an important step in developing management tools for this pathogen-spreading insect in Florida,” Stelinksi said.

Redbay ambrosia beetles bore holes into trees and infect them with the fungus Raffaelea lauricola, which causes the potentially deadly disease called laurel wilt. Laurel wilt has destroyed 12,000 commercial avocado trees in Florida. UF/IFAS researchers estimate the avocado industry to have a $100 million-a-year impact on Florida’s economy. Thus, the critical need to lure, trap and kill the redbay ambrosia beetle.

When the beetle infects a tree with the fungus, it farms the fungus and uses it as a food source, Stelinski said. But the fungus emits specific odors, as does the tree itself. Ambrosia beetles use those odors to find the trees they want to bore into, Stelinski said.

Instead of relying on the tree’s odors alone, Stelinksi and his colleagues combined the fungus’ smell with a chemical that simulated the tree’s odor in order to attract the ambrosia beetles into traps. They tested their lure in redbay forests infested with the beetles in Florida.

“When we combined the two as a smell to attract the beetles, we found this combination attracted beetles in a synergistic way,” he said. In other words, the odor increased the number of beetles captured compared to the number captured by just the tree odor. “What we did was identify the blend of chemicals that fungi release. We can use a synthetic blend of these chemicals, like a perfume to mimic what the fungus smells like.”

The paper by Stelinski and six UF/IFAS colleagues was published in 2014 in the journal Agricultural and Forest Entomology. According to its website, www.royensoc.co.uk, the Royal Entomological Society plays a major national and international role in disseminating information about insects and improving communication between entomologists. The society was founded in 1833 as the Entomological Society of London.

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Caption: Lukasz Stelinski, a UF/IFAS associate professor of entomology, led a study in which he and UF/IFAS colleagues created a synthetic aroma to lure and trap redbay ambrosia beetles. The beetles carry and transmit the pathogen that can destroy avocado trees. The Royal Entomological Society has awarded its 2016 Best Paper Award to the paper written by Stelinski and his colleagues.

Credit: Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS photography

By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

Source: Lukasz Stelinski, 863-956-8851, stelinski@ufl.edu