UC Irvine researcher struggling to fight back tree-killing beetle

UC Irvine researcher struggling to fight back tree-killing beetle

Researchers at UC Irvine are struggling to fight back a tree-killing beetle that has already killed hundreds of cottonwood, native willow, golden rain and coral trees.

Richard Demerjian, the director of UC Irvine’s Office of Environmental Planning & Sustainability, said when the first few sycamores started dying in Aldrich Park in late 2014, the number of victims was in dozens but the number jumped to hundreds by last year.

Speaking on the topic, Demerjian said, “We’ve seen infestations of pests, but nothing to this extent. It came as quite a shock.”

The trees are being victimized by the polyphagous shot hole borer, a kind of invasive beetle that has been attacking and killing a wide variety of trees throughout Southern California.

The researchers have attached white tags around dozens of threes at the campus to study the bug and find an efficient way to get rid of it. People have been instructed not to touch or climb on the trees that have been tagged.

The beetle in question burrows tunnels into the trees. It uses the empty space to farm various species of fungus that it eat and feed to its young ones. But the fungus spreads fast through the tree’s system, ultimately causing it to die.