2011-01-28

Fungus has role in pine beetle infestation

Scientists have decoded a genetic secret that could help explain why mountain pine beetles have been able to ravage forests in western Canada and the United States.

A fungus carried by the tiny beetles weakens a tree’s natural defenses, and has even developed the ability to feed on fungicidal resin chemicals the tree produces to protect itself, Canadian researchers have discovered.

The fungus is best known for the blue stain it creates in the wood of trees killed by the insects, but little was known about the role it played in the infestation.