Biological Invasions

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 995–1007 | Cite as

Cold tolerance and invasive potential of the redbay ambrosia beetle (Xyleborus glabratus) in the eastern United States

  • John P. Formby
  • John C. RodgersIII
  • Frank H. Koch
  • Natraj Krishnan
  • Donald A. Duerr
  • John J. RigginsEmail author
Original Paper


Native Lauraceae (e.g. sassafras, redbay) in the southeastern USA are being severely impacted by laurel wilt disease, which is caused by the pathogen Raffaelea lauricola T. C. Harr., Fraedrich and Aghayeva, and its symbiotic vector, the redbay ambrosia beetle (Xyleborus glabratus Eichhoff). Cold temperatures are currently the only viable limitation to the establishment of X. glabratus in northern populations of sassafras. The observed lower lethal temperature of X. glabratus (− 10.0 °C) is warmer than its supercooling point (− 22.0 °C), indicating the beetle is a freeze intolerant and chill susceptible species. Empirically derived X. glabratus lower lethal temperature thresholds were combined with host distribution and microhabitat-corrected climate data to produce species distribution models for X. glabratus in the eastern USA. Macroclimate data (30-year mean annual minimum temperature) were corrected (− 1.2 °C) to account for thermal buffering afforded to X. glabratus while living inside sassafras trees. Only 0.1% of the current US sassafras spatial extent experiences sufficiently harsh winters (locales where mean annual minimum winter temperatures ≤ − 6.2 °C for ≥ 12 h) to exclude X. glabratus establishment in our species distribution model. Minimum winter temperatures will likely cause some X. glabratus mortality in ~ 52% of the current spatial extent of sassafras, although current data do not allow a quantification of X. glabratus mortality in this zone. Conversely, ~ 48% of the current spatial extent of sassafras is unlikely to experience sufficiently cold winter temperatures to cause any significant impediment to X. glabratus spread or establishment. A modest climate change scenario (RCP4.5) of + 1.4 °C would result in 91% of the current spatial extent of sassafras in the eastern USA occurring where winter minimum temperatures are unlikely to cause any mortality to X. glabratus.


Cold tolerance Distribution model Forest invasion Laurel wilt Redbay ambrosia beetle Sassafras 



We thank the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) in Jackson County, Mississippi for making field, laboratory, and dormitory space available for this project. We would specifically like to thank Mark Woodrey and Will Underwood for their help in accommodating research activities at the Grand Bay NERR. We would also like to thank Blake Layton, Frank Sapio, and Richard Brown for their invaluable assistance, comments, and suggestions. Randy Chapin and the Mississippi Forestry Commission provided funding and support. Funding was also provided by cooperative agreements with the USDA Forest Service Region 8 Forest Health Protection and a Forest Health Monitoring Special Detection and Monitoring grant. This publication is a contribution of the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, and this material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Hatch project under Accession No. 1002487.


Funding was provided by the USDA Forest Service Region 8 Forest Health Protection under a cooperative agreement via the Mississippi Forestry Commission.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology, and Plant PathologyMississippi State UniversityMississippi StateUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeosciencesMississippi State UniversityMississippi StateUSA
  3. 3.USDA Forest ServiceEastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment CenterResearch Triangle ParkUSA
  4. 4.USDA Forest ServiceForest Health ProtectionAtlantaUSA

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