Spruce beetle, Dendroctonus rufipennis Kirby, is associated with forest mortality in Colorado and across western North America, yet it is not well understood how thermal variability affects basic population processes such as flight phenology. However, phenology–temperature relationships are important for understanding patterns of ecosystem disturbance, especially under projected climate warming. Here, we use a multiyear trapping study to test the hypothesis that spruce beetle flight synchrony, timing, and fitness traits (body size) are affected by variation in regional temperature and physiography. Large quantities of co-colonizing scolytines (Polygraphus convexifrons) (Coleoptera: Curculionidae, Scolytinae) and predatory beetles (Thanasimus undulatus) (Coleoptera: Cleridae) that may affect D. rufipennis populations also responded to spruce beetle synthetic pheromone lures. Relationships between flight patterns and environmental conditions were also analyzed for these species. The winter of 2018 was warmer and drier than winter 2017 and was associated with earlier flight for both scolytine species across most sites. The most important environmental factor driving D. rufipennis flight phenology was accumulated growing degree-days, with delayed flight cessation under warmer conditions and larger beetles following a warm winter. Flight was consistently more synchronous under colder growing season conditions for all species, but synchrony was not associated with winter temperatures. Warmer-than-average years promoted earlier flight of D. rufipennis and associated species, and less synchronous, prolonged flight across the region. Consequently, climate warming may be associated with earlier and potentially extended biotic pressure for spruce trees in the Rocky Mountain region, and flight phenology of multiple scolytines is plastic in response to thermal conditions.
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Vol. 48 • No. 4