The Indiana Jones of insects

The Indiana Jones of insects

October 15, 2019 1 By Stanley Isaacs


The magnitude of the problem doesn’t hit
you until you’re actually on the ground looking at the dead trees. Campers moved infested
firewood into this campground. Beatles emerged and they flew up into these Oak trees and
thus the invasion began. We’ve killed anywhere from 20,000 to 80,000 trees now. This is really
the first time an exotic insect has come into Southern California, attacked our native Oak
trees and caused such widespread devastation. My name is Mark Hoddle. I’m the Director
for the Center for Invasive Species Research at the University of California Riverside.
And the reason we are here today is to look at these Oak trees which have been killed
by an invasive insect called the Gold Spotted Oak Borer. There’s a lot of dead trees and
this is just a small part of the William Heise County Park. So, you take this patch, amplify
it by hundreds of acres, you can see the magnitude of the problem. It’s enormous. You can see
some of the damage inside the wood, these brown streaks. Okay, so we have one right
here, there we go, gotcha. He’s screwed now, man. From the collections we were doing
a few days ago, we got about 50 larvae out of this tree in like an hour. And that’s
only what we’ve done here. What makes them so destructive to these trees is that there
are hundreds of these beetles feeding in the tree and they just can’t handle that kind
of feeding pressure. So with hundreds of adult beetles coming out of each one of these infested
trees and then fly to the surrounding Oak trees, lay their eggs and then the infestation
cycle begins again. It’s heartbreaking. People are moving firewood infested with beetles.
This allows the beetle to move very quickly, 50, 60 miles, maybe 100 miles when people
have a pickup truck load and we get about 10 of these new species establishing in California
each year. We’re interested in looking for natural enemies to suppress the uncontrolled
populations of this pest in Southern California. And that’s what I specialize in. I go overseas
or to other parts of the United States, look for the natural enemies that have evolved,
used that pest species for food, bring them back to California, run the safety tests and
quarantine, repair the environment assessment reports and if we get the green light, we
release them and we can solve a problem. Because really we have no other option. We can’t
spray these massive forests with pesticides to kill all these beetles. Every person in
California, their life will be affected in some way by these exotic organisms. Because
tourism is increasing, trade is increasing and just the amount of human movement in and
out of California, either by road, train, boat, plane is increasing all the time. And
as people move they bring stuff with them.