Role of insect vectors in epidemiology and invasion risk of Fusarium circinatum, and risk assessment of biological control of invasive Pinus contorta

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College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


Pitch canker, caused by the pathogen Fusarium circinatum, is a serious disease of pines, Pinus species. It is a threat to natural and planted pine forests, and to date it has invaded countries across five continents. Pine-feeding insects can play a key role in the epidemiology of the disease, as wounding agents allowing pathogen access or as vectors transmitting the pathogen from infected to healthy trees. We reviewed the role of insects in the epidemiology of pitch canker worldwide and assessed which insects are present in New Zealand that may act as wounding agents or vectors to determine whether pathogen invasion could adversely affect Pinus radiata plantation forests and urban trees. We also evaluated whether cone or seed insects of pines could be introduced as biological control agents of invasive Pinus contorta and how this may affect the impact of a potential F. circinatum invasion. As there are no native pines or other Pinaceae in New Zealand, there are only a few pine insects, mainly accidental introductions. None of the insects recorded on pines in New Zealand is likely to be a vector, suggesting low disease risk. Of six potentially suitable biocontrol candidates, the European pine cone weevil Pissodes validirostris is the most promising regarding host specificity and impact on seed production, but there is uncertainty about its ability to act as a vector of F. circinatum. Our methodology to review and evaluate the vector potential of pine associates can be used as a generic framework to assess the potential impacts of F. circinatum invasion.

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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016. Publisher’s version of record: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-016-1059-8

Publication Title

Biological Invasions