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Sirex Woodwasp

Stanislaw Kinelski, Bugwood.org
Sirex noctilio. The Sirex woodwasp, was first discovered in Fulton New York in 2004. This was the first North American discovery of this dangerous, exotic, invasive pest that is one of the top 10 most serious forest insect pest invaders worldwide. This pest has caused extensive losses to (non-native) pine plantations across the Southern Hemisphere, in Australia, New Zealand, Chile and South Africa, and has no known, native natural controls.

The female Sirex woodwasp injects a toxic mucus and a fungus while she is laying her eggs in the bark of susceptible pine trees. This typically occurs mid-bole (10-30+ feet up) on pole-sized and larger trees (6-8" in diameter and up). The female wasps seem to prefer trees whos health is not 100% optimum due to stress or environmental conditions. The mucus quickly kills tree cells from the egg-laying site upwards. The fungus feeds on the killed wood, and the insect larva actually feed on the fungus. As they grow, the larvae bore deep into and through the wood - not just under the cambium layer, just under the bark as do some beetles. This makes them more difficult to detect and more difficult to eliminate.

Pine is often used to make solid wood packing material for shipping. Since the life cycle can take a year or more, the insect is easily transported in pallets or other wood packing material. Based on its native range in Europe and Asia, it could establish itself in any climate zone of North America where pine occurs.

All pine species are believed to be at risk, particularly stressed Scotch pine, red pine, as well as Eastern white pine. There is the additional risk that the Sirex woodwasp will also attack virtually all our other native softwood species. While there is potential for serious losses to softwood stands, the far greater concern nationally, is if this invasive, exotic pest makes its way into the vast plantations of susceptible pine species found across the Southern US region. The pine resource in that region is much more susceptible to serious mortality than our Maryland/VA forest conditions, which are more varied, with highly susceptible pines comprising a smaller, and more scattered component of our forests.

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