Spain joins Italy and France in war against invasive, ‘tree-killing’ beetles

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WAR: The beetles cause the drying and death of branches and sometimes even entire trees. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

SPAIN has joined forces with Italy and France to stamp out two exotic species of beetle that invade parts of the Mediterranean.

The invasive bark and ambrosia beetles, Xylosandrus compactus and Xylosandrus craussiusculus, wreak havoc by drilling tunnels in trees and young shrubs, causing the drying and death of branches and sometimes the whole tree.

The University of Alicante (AU) is involved in the ‘Samfix’ project, which is co-financed by the European Commission.

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The objective is to protect more than 42,100 hectares of forest in the Mediterranean included in the Natura 2000 where these beetles are present.

Since 2011, experts in entomology at the university have been detecting and analysing the damage caused by these beetles in Italian and French forests and parks.

Attacks were identified on some carob trees in the province of Valencia for the first time in the Iberian Peninsula in 2016, specifically in El Pla de les Clotxes residential area, Benifaio, and near the El Tello Municipal Natural Park in Llombai.

According to AU, the insects perforate tunnels in young branches and trunks of host trees where they cultivate symbiotic fungi, known as ragweed fungi, from which they feed.

The attacked plants show symptoms such as wilting, death of branches, branch rupture and generalised decay.

In Valencia researchers registered the drying of branches and the death of branches and, even the whole carob tree.

The Samfix project aims to establish effective protocols for prevention, early warning and rapid response to eradicate or contain the current invasions of these beetles, as well as avoid future expansions.

These protocols will be tested in six areas of Europe, located in Spain, Italy and France.

According to the coordinator of the Spanish team and researcher of the Department of Ecology of the UA, Diego Gallego, trapping networks will be installed in the Municipal Natural Park of El Tello, in March 2019.

These traps will constitute warning networks for new infestations and will serve to develop eradication and/or containment protocols.

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