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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Invasive Populations of the Emerald Ash Borer Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire, 1888 (Coleoptera: Buprestidae) in Saint Petersburg, Russia: A Hitchhiker?

Selikhovkin, Andrey V.; Musolin, Dmitry L.; Popovichev, Boris G.; Merkuryev, Sergey A.; Volkovitsh, Mark G.; Vasaitis, Rimvys

Abstract

Simple Summary The emerald ash borer (EAB) is an invasive beetle of Asian origin that has killed millions of ash trees in North America and Russia, with a devastating economic and ecological impact. In September 2020, EAB was detected for the first time in Saint Petersburg, Russia, notably killing ash trees. The invasion came from the eastern direction (Moscow) and became a significantly notable event for Saint Petersburg, famous for its historical parks. Moreover, Saint Petersburg is 120-130 km from the eastern EU borders of Estonia and Finland, with railway, motorway, and ferry connections. Currently, EAB is one of the most serious quarantine insect pests in the EU. There is a risk that the eventual EAB invasion could potentially extirpate European populations of ash. Currently, 95% are devastated by the invasive fungal disease ash dieback. Here, we investigated the development of EAB populations in Saint Petersburg, from its initial invasion (estimated year 2015), until 2021. We found that climatic conditions of north Russia do not favor the natural aerial spread of EAB. The two isolated populations were located, respectively, close to a motorway, and the Neva River (used for cargo shipping), implying that the insect spreads by transport vehicles, or "hitchhiking". This could potentially lead to the eventual invasion of the EU by this serious, tree-killing beetle. The emerald ash borer (EAB), Agrilus planipennis, is an invasive beetle of East Asian origin that has killed millions of ash trees (Fraxinus spp.) in North America and Russia. In September 2020, EAB was detected in Saint Petersburg, a notable event for the metropolitan city. The aim of the present study was to investigate the occurrence and ecology of EAB in Saint Petersburg. The presence of two distinct enclave populations of EAB was revealed, each of which has, most likely, been established through separate events of "hitchhiking" via transport vehicles. Following the invasion, the further spread of EAB in Saint Petersburg was slow and locally restricted, most likely due to climatic factors. This spread by "hitchhiking" suggests that the possibility of the further long-distance geographic spread of EAB in the Baltic Sea region (the EU) is high, both by ground transport (120-130 km distance from EU borders) and ferries that transport cars across the Baltic Sea. In certain cases, the development of EAB on Fraxinus excelsior, based on the stem portion colonized, larval densities, number of galleries, exit holes, viable larvae, and emerged adult beetles, was more successful than in Fraxinus pennsylvanica trees. The observed relatively high sensitivity of F. excelsior to EAB, therefore, casts doubt on the efficacy and benefits of the currently ongoing selection and breeding projects against ash dieback (ADB) disease, which is caused by the fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus. Inventory, mapping, and monitoring of surviving F. excelsior trees infested by both ADB and EAB are necessary to acquire genetic resources for work on the strategic long-term restoration of F. excelsior, tackling the probable invasion of EAB to the EU.

Keywords

the emerald ash borer; Fraxinus spp; forest pests; invasive populations; Northwest Russia; Saint Petersburg; urban pests

Published in

Insects
2022, Volume: 13, number: 2, article number: 191
Publisher: MDPI