The mountain pine beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins (Coleoptera: Curculionidae: Scolytinae) is the most damaging pest of mature pine (Pinaceae) in western North America. Although mountain pine beetles have an obligate dispersal phase during which adults must locate a new host for brood production, dispersal is a poorly understood aspect of its ecology. This flight mill study was designed to test the effects of beetle size, sex, and age on flight capacity. Energy use during flight was assessed through measurements of weight before and after flight and fat content of flown versus control beetles. The mean flight distance achieved by mountain pine beetles varied between 2.12 and 5.95 km over the 23-h bioassay, but the longest total flight of an individual beetle was >24 km. Beetle preflight weight influenced flight initiation, flight distance, and duration. Bigger beetles are more likely to fly and once in flight fly longer and farther than smaller beetles. There was no direct effect of beetle sex on flight capacity. Flight capacity of beetles declined with age postemergence. Although individual flight capacity was variable, flight velocity was relatively constant between 1.55 and 1.93 km/h. Lipids are used to power flight in mountain pine beetles, as lipid content was lower in beetles flown on the flight mills compared with beetles that did not fly. Flight distance was negatively correlated with beetle postflight lipid content. The baseline flight capacity data revealed in this study have implications for understanding the population dynamics of this eruptive forest pest.
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Vol. 43 • No. 1