Exotic tree pathogens can cause devastating ecological effects on forests that can be exacerbated when infections increase the likelihood of attack by insects. Current high rates of mortality of whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis Engelm.) are due to white pine blister rust caused by the exotic fungus, Cronartium ribicola J.C. Fisch, and the native mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins). These two mortality agents interact in whitebark pine; mountain pine beetle preferentially selects white pine blister rust-infected whitebark pine over healthy trees, and likelihood of attack has been observed to increase with infection severity. We examined attack and emergence rates, and size and sex ratio of mountain pine beetle in whitebark pines exhibiting varying white pine blister rust infection severities. Mountain pine beetle attack density was lowest on the most severely infected trees, but emergence rates and size of beetles from these trees were greater than those from uninfected and less severely infected trees. Low attack rates on severely infected whitebark pine may indicate these trees have lower defenses and that fewer beetle attacks are needed to kill them. Higher beetle emergence rates from severely infected trees may be due to low intraspecific competition resulting from low attack rates or differences in nutrient quality.
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Vol. 44 • No. 5