Fungus-Forming Beetles Threaten Avocado Farms

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A beetle that creates fungi inside trees is threatening avocado farms

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

The ambrosia beetle carries a type of fungus called fusarium, which it cultivates inside trees and feeds to its offspring.

Pests pose a huge threat to farms as they can kill plants and contaminate crops. A common pest is the ambrosia beetle, which infects trees with a fungus — a species of fusarium that can damage and kill trees — that it feeds to its offspring. Researchers say the ambrosia beetle and its fungus are threatening avocado farms in the United States and in Israel, according to Eureka Alert.

Since there is evidence that the beetle and the fungus co-evolve, researchers fear that the beetle along with the fungus, which easily forms hybrids, will evolve into a more destructive beetle and fungus duo. The beetles, which carry the fusarium and other fungi in pockets inside their heads, are a global threat because they can live in wood pallets that are transported by cargo ships.

"There is already strong evidence for genetic exchange between fungi from different beetles," says David Geiser, a professor of plant pathology at Penn State who worked on the study. "We want to know if a beetle of one species bored into the same tree as another beetle species, can the fungi they maintain mate and produce new genotypes that are even more problematic?"

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