University of Florida researchers say they've found more beetles that can carry a disease threatening avocado trees.
The redbay ambrosia beetle, considered the main carrier of the fungus that causes the deadly laurel wilt disease, is rare in avocado groves. But in a new study in the Journal of Economic Entomology, plant pathology professor Randy Ploetz said scientists found three more beetles that can carry the tree-killing disease, bring the total to nine.
However, UFL entomologist Daniel Carrillo notes that just because beetles can carry the laurel wilt pathogen doesn't mean that they can transmit the disease to the trees.
"So far, we only know of the primary vector of laurel wilt, the redbay ambrosia beetle, and two native beetles, that have been shown experimentally to be capable of transmitting the disease to avocado," Carrillo said.
Ploetz says the study shows that focusing on redbay ambrosia beetles may not save avocado trees from laurel wilt.
Jonathan Crane at the university's Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead says avocado growers have known for some time that other ambrosia beetle species'' can spread disease in their groves.
Economists at the university's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences say avocadoes have a $100 million-a-year impact in South Florida.