How to Manage Pests

Pests in Gardens and Landscapes

Invasive Shothole Borers

Published 8/23

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Adult female invasive shothole borer beetle.

Adult female invasive shothole borer beetle.

Adult male invasive shothole borer beetle.

Adult male invasive shothole borer beetle.

ISHB entrance/exit hole in a Sycamore tree. Note the  hole is about the size of the tip of a medium ball-point pen.

ISHB entrance/exit hole in a Sycamore tree. Note the hole is about the size of the tip of a medium ball-point pen.

Frass and boring dust coming out of the entrance/exit hole caused by invasive shothole borers

Frass and boring dust coming out of the entrance/exit hole caused by invasive shothole borers

Lindgren funnel trap (right) and sticky panel trap set up on a pole (left).

Lindgren funnel trap (right) and sticky panel trap set up on a pole (left).

Invasive shothole borers (ISHB) are non-native beetles that belong to a group known as ambrosia beetles  that “farm” certain fungi for food. The tiny adult beetles bore into trees and introduce a fungus that causes the tree disease known as Fusarium dieback (FD). This insect-pathogen complex has been responsible for the death of tens of thousands of urban and riparian trees in Southern California.

The two ISHB species currently found in California are the polyphagous shothole borer (Euwallacea fornicatus) and the Kuroshio shothole borer (Euwallacea kuroshio). Visually, these two species are identical and require DNA analysis to distinguish them. Each beetle species is associated with specific symbiotic plant pathogenic fungi, which can also be used to confirm beetle species. Fusarium euwallaceae is associated with polyphagous shothole borer and F. kuroshium is associated with Kuroshio shothole borer.

Over 78 species of trees and shrubs have been identified worldwide as ISHB-FD reproductive hosts (trees in which the fungus can grow, and the beetles can reproduce), including many California native and common landscape tree species. Another 247 species in 64 plant families are attacked but the beetles cannot successfully reproduce in them. Among the confirmed reproductive hosts, the combined effects of the beetles and the fungal pathogens have different impacts. On some, they cause tree decline and branch dieback, while on others they cause tree death (Table 1). In some cases, hosts only get infested with ISHB-FD in the margins of preexisting canker infections caused by other wood canker fungal pathogens. Visit to find the updated list of ISHB-FD reproductive hosts.

Table 1. Current list of confirmed ISHB-FD reproductive hosts.
Hosts killed by ISHB-FD
Latin Name Common Name
Acer buergerianum Trident maple
Acer macrophyllum Big leaf maple*
Acer negundo Box elder*
Acer palmatum Japanese maple
Liquidambar styraciflua American sweet gum
Parkinsonia aculeata Palo verde
Platanus racemosa California sycamore*
Platanus x acerifolia London plane
Populus fremontii Fremont cottonwood*
Populus nigra Black poplar*
Populus trichocarpa Black cottonwood*
Quercus lobata Valley oak*
Quercus robur English oak
Ricinus communis Castorbean
Salix gooddingii Black willow*
Salix laevigata Red willow*
Salix lasiolepis Arroyo willow*
Hosts NOT killed by ISHB-FD
Latin Name Common Name
Acacia melanoxylon Australian blackwood
Acacia mearnsii Black wattle†
Acacia spp. Acacia
Acer paxii Evergreen maple
Acer saccharinum Silver leaf maple
Aesculus californica California buckeye*
Ailanthus altissima Tree of heaven
Albizia julibrissin Mimosa
Alectryon excelsus Titoki
Alnus rhombifolia White alder*
Archontophoenix cunninghamiana King palm
Baccharis salicina Mule fat*
Baccharis pilularis Coyote bush
Bauhinia variegata Purple orchid tree
Brachychiton populneus Kurrajong
Camellia semiserrata Camellia
Castanospermum australe Moreton Bay chestnut
Casuarina equisetifolia Australian pine tree 
Cercidium floridum Blue palo verde*
Cercidium x sonorae Sonoran palo verde
Cocculus laurifolius Laurel leaf snailseed tree
Combertum kraussii Forest bushwillow†
Corymbia ficifolia Red flowering gum
Cupaniopsis anacardioides Carrotwood
Dombeya cacuminum Strawberry tree
Erythrina caffra Coast coral tree
Erythrina coralloides Coral tree
Erythrina falcata Brazilian coral tree
Fagus crenata Japanese beech
Ficus altissima Council tree
Ficus carica Black mission fig
Gleditsia triacanthos Honey locust
Harpullia pendula Tulip wood
Howea forsteriana Kentia palm
Ilex cornuta Chinese holly
Jacaranda mimosifolia Jacaranda
Koelreuteria bipinnata Chinese flame tree
Magnolia grandiflora Southern magnolia
Magnolia virginiana Sweet bay
Persea americana Avocado
Platanus mexicana Mexican sycamore
Podalyria calyptrata Keurtije†
Populus tremuloides Quaking aspen
Prosopis articulata Mesquite*
Psoralea pinnata Fountain bush†
Pterocarya stenoptera Chinese wingnut
Ptychosperma elegans Solitaire palm
Quercus agrifolia Coast live oak*
Quercus chrysolepis Canyon live oak*
Quercus engelmannii Engelmann oak*
Quercus macrocarpa Bur oak
Quercus suber Cork oak
Salix alba White willow†
Salix babylonica Weeping willow
Spathodea campanulata African tulip tree
Salix mucronate Cape silver willow†
Tamarix ramosissima Tamarisk
Virgilia oroboides Tree-In-A-Hurry†
Wisteria floribunda Japanese wisteria
Xylosma congesta Dense logwood / Shiny Xylosma

* host species native to California, † only found infested with ISHB-FD in South Africa

By early 2023, invasive shothole borers were present in 7 counties in Southern California: Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Ventura. One of the beetle species, polyphagous shothole borer, has also been detected in other countries, including Mexico, Israel, South Africa, Australia, and Taiwan. A current map showing the distribution of ISHB in California can be found at Because of the wide host range, if left unmanaged, ISHB can potentially spread to the rest of California and neighboring states. Epidemiological forecasting of ISHB-FD based on microclimate and host distribution data in urban forests has predicted many locations throughout California where the pest-pathogen complex could establish, including Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area.


Female adult beetles are 1/16 to 1/10 inch (1.8–2.5 mm) in length and range from brown to black in color. Males are smaller (1/16 inch (1.5 mm) in length), light brown to black in color, and flightless. Since invasive shothole borers spend most of their life inside the host plant, infestation assessment relies on correct identification of signs and symptoms on the infested plant. The main sign of ISHB-FD infestation is the presence of the gallery entrance/exit holes in the trunk, branches, or both. The holes are small (1/32 inch or 0.85mm in diameter) and perfectly round, roughly the size of the tip of a medium ball point pen. Removing the first layer of bark should reveal a hole surrounded by discolored tissue caused by the fungal infection.

The entrance and exit holes are often accompanied by other signs and symptoms. These can include wet staining around the holes, frass (solid insect waste product) and boring dust (resembles fine saw dust), gumming, and sometimes sugary buildup (common in avocado trees). Since every host plant species responds differently to ISHB-FD, the combination of signs and symptoms observed might vary; however, entry holes are always present in infested plants. Branch dieback is often a symptom of an advanced ISHB-FD infestation.

Many other pests and diseases cause similar symptoms to ISHB-FD and can appear on the same plant species, so proper pest identification is critical. In addition, there are several species of ambrosia beetles and bark beetles that are native to California and could easily be confused with ISHB. Unlike ISHB, which colonizes mostly healthy trees, most of these look-alike species attack only stressed, injured, or dying trees. The easiest way to distinguish ISHB-FD symptoms from the ones caused by other pests and diseases is the presence of an entry hole that is the right size and shape.

Invasive shothole borer females bore into trees creating a series of galleries or tunnels where they lay their eggs and grow their symbiotic fungi. Female beetles carry the fungal spores with them within specialized structures located at the base of their mouthparts. ISHB beetles do not eat wood; instead, both larvae and adults rely on their symbiotic fungi as their sole source of food. Their larvae are white, C-shaped, and legless, with an orange head capsule. Invasive shothole borers have 3 larval instars before pupating and becoming adults. Pupae are white, the same size as adult beetles. It takes 25–50 days for the larvae to grow into pupae and become adults under ideal temperature conditions. Models based on the effect of temperature in their development suggest that ISHBs can have 5–11 generations per year in southern California.

ISHB females can lay up to 57 eggs, of which most are fertilized (which will become female offspring) and only a few are unfertilized (which will become male offspring). Once they mature, ISHB siblings mate with each other inside their gallery, then the female offspring are ready to disperse. Although dispersing females are usually mated, an unmated female can start a population by laying unfertilized eggs (which would become male offspring) and then mating with her male offspring.

Only female beetles can fly and infest other trees; males do not fly. Females only fly when air temperature is higher than 68°F. Most females make their own galleries in the same tree where they were born, which is why ISHB infestations are generally found concentrated in a few trees during early infestation stages. As the beetle population grows within these severely infested trees and the tree declines, the beetles start to rapidly infest neighboring trees.


It is unlikely that ISHB will be eradicated from the areas where it is already established. However, there is evidence that by consistently following an appropriate management plan, ISHB infestations can be contained, minimizing their impact. A successful management plan for ISHB-FD should include regular monitoring of tree health and quickly identifying sources of beetles (such as heavily infested branches or trees). The plan should also include cultural practices to maintain tree health, guidelines for removing severely infested trees and branches, specifications for disposing of cut infested wood, and parameters for when the use of pesticide treatments may be appropriate. The recommended actions vary depending on the tree species, location, infestation level, hazard level, and tree value. Table 2 summarizes possible actions for infested trees located in and around urban areas.


Early detection is the key to controlling this insect. Because no effective preventative treatments have been reported so far, regular monitoring is recommended to ensure infestations are managed early before they cause dieback or death and when the trees have the best chance of recovery. Frequent visual inspection of the trees is the best monitoring approach. Look for signs and symptoms of ISHB-FD infestation on both the trunk and branches.

Infestation level within a given tree is determined by the number of active galleries (entry holes) in the trunk and branches, and the presence of dieback associated to those beetle attacks (Table 2). Only active entry holes with live beetles inside the associated gallery should be considered to determine infestation levels. It is important to note that the entry holes may remain visible on the trunk and branches even after the beetles left or died. The presence of beetles, wet staining, and frass are good indicators that the entry holes are active. One other way to confirm if there are live beetles within the galleries is painting over selected entry holes with water-based latex paint. If an ISHB female is alive within the gallery, it will re-open the entry hole during the next 24 hours, proving that the entry hole is active.

Trapping can provide information about the presence of ISHB in an area. Both Lindgren funnel traps and sticky panel traps have been effective at detecting ISHB (Figure 7). When using a funnel trap, use soapy water or propylene glycol (sold as non-toxic antifreeze fluid) in the collection cup. Avoid using ethanol or ethylene glycol (standard antifreeze fluid) because these may diminish the effectiveness of the traps for ISHB and tend to attract many other look-alike beetles. Both funnel and sticky panel traps should be equipped with a quercivorol lure (sold separately) to help attract ISHB beetles. Lures should be replaced every 2 months or according to package instructions. Both traps and lures can be purchased from manufacturers and specialty retailers.

Place traps where ISHB host species are available, but avoid hanging the traps in or under the canopy. Do not hang the traps directly from tree branches; use a pole to hang or attach the trap instead. Placing sticky traps at a height of 2.5 feet from the ground increases the number of beetles caught, although traps might need to be installed slightly higher in windy and exposed areas to avoid getting the trap covered in dust and debris. Traps may be placed at 25– to 35–yard intervals throughout the monitored area. A higher concentration of traps is not advised.

Because the lures used for trapping ISHB are relatively weak, trapping is not an effective control method and is only used as a monitoring tool. For the same reason, each trap will only attract the beetles that are already present in the area, so the risk of attracting new beetles to the area by using quercivorol-baited traps is very low.

Mechanical control

Most trees that are severely infested (with more than 150 active entry holes and ISHB-related branch dieback) are not likely to recover from the infestation and will become a persistent source of beetles that can disperse and infest neighboring trees. Weakened branches on such trees are hazardous to people and property. Prompt removal of severely infested trees is recommended. Since ISHB can survive and reproduce on stumps for years, it is also recommended to either grind the stump or cut it to ground level after tree removal.

When infestations are concentrated on the branches (as commonly found in coast live oak and avocado), removing those branches is an effective control method. Pruning tools should be disinfected between trees to avoid spreading the fungus and other opportunistic pathogens. Effective disinfecting agents include a 70% solution of ethanol, a 5% solution of bleach, or commercial disinfectant solutions like Lysol. Infested plant material from pruning or removals should be disposed of properly to avoid spreading this pest.

Invasive shot hole borers can survive in cut wood for weeks or even months. It is vital to properly manage green waste to avoid spreading this pest to new areas. Do not move infested branches or logs offsite until they have been properly sanitized. Options for sanitation of infested wood include the following.

Chipping: Research has shown that the most effective practice is to chip infested wood as small as possible. The preferred chip size is 1 inch or smaller, which will kill 99.9% of the beetles. Chips that are 3 inches or smaller will kill 98% of the beetles. To eliminate the beetles from the wood, chipping should be followed by other sanitation methods like composting or solarizing. If the area is already infested, chips can be used as mulch for the surrounding trees. Chips that haven’t been composted or solarized should not be used as mulch in a different location.

Composting:After chipping the wood, composting—when done correctly—will kill the remaining beetles and fungi in the chips. Wood chips can be composted at a professional composting facility. Composting of small amounts of green waste (such as from pruning few branches) can be done at home, so long as guidelines are carefully followed to ensure the composting pile reaches the required temperature. UC IPM guidelines for composting can be found at /PMG/GARDEN/FRUIT/ENVIRON/composting.html. Composted, chipped plant material may then be re-purposed as mulch and safely moved to uninfested areas.

Solarizing: Infested chips and logs can be solarized under a clear tarp. When done correctly, solar energy will heat green waste until beetles and fungi are killed. The chips or logs should be wrapped with a clear, sturdy (at least 6 mil), UV-resistant plastic tarp. Do not use opaque tarps. The infested plant material should be fully contained by wrapping plastic both underneath and over the material. Seal the edges of the tarp by covering them with soil. Any holes that develop must be completely sealed. Keep log or chip layers as thin as possible, 2 logs deep maximum, to ensure even heating throughout the pile. To ensure high temperatures are achieved for long enough, infested material should remain covered for at least 6 weeks during July to August and at least 6 months during September to June.

Cultural control

Prevention is the best way to manage pest infestations. Limiting the movement of infested wood material is the best way to prevent the introduction of ISHB and other wood boring pests into new areas. Use locally sourced firewood (Buy It Where You Burn It: or use kiln-dried firewood. When acquiring wood chips (such as when using as mulch), make sure they come from a clean source.

Healthy, well-cared for trees are less likely to succumb to pest infestations. Proper cultural care, such as proper irrigation, maintaining good soil conditions, and protecting the tree from mechanical damage (for instance, damage by lawnmowing equipment) are key to a healthy and resilient tree. Removing any competing turf or other plants from the tree’s root zone and replacing that with a thin layer of mulch will help enhance the tree’s vigor.

When selecting trees for planting, consider the site conditions (such as water availability, soil type, temperature, maximum desired height and width of the tree) and choose a tree species that matches those requirements. Diverse tree communities are more resilient to pests. Avoid monocultures or high concentrations of a single (or just a few) tree species in an area. When replanting trees in heavily infested areas, make sure you first manage the current infestation and wait at least until you can ensure that the infestation is under control before planting highly susceptible hosts (species killed by ISHB; Table 1). ISHB host species can still be planted in infested areas as long as the infestation is proactively managed.

Biological control

There are no biological controls available for ISHB-FD, but several options are currently being researched. This includes the use of natural enemies (parasitic wasps from the areas where the beetles are native), nematodes, entomopathogenic fungi (fungi that attack insects), endophytes (microorganisms that live within the trees and can provide protection against Fusarium), and other beneficial microorganisms. These biological management options must be thoroughly tested before they become available.

Chemical control

Trees that are reproductive hosts for ISHB-FD and that show signs of active infestations (clusters of several entry holes associated with wet staining, frass, or both) can be treated with a combination of insecticides and fungicides. The decision to treat a particular tree depends among other things on the tree’s condition, value, and hazard level (Table 2). Trees that are not already infested should be monitored but not treated.

Table 2: ISHB-FD management matrix for infested urban and peri-urban forest.
ISHB Infestation Level & Management Options for Low Value Trees
Host Type Hazard Level No Infestation Low Moderate Heavy Severe
Reproductive Host Low Monitor Monitor Monitor & remove  infested branches* Monitor & remove  infested branches* Remove  tree & stump
High Monitor Monitor & remove hazard branches Monitor & remove infested/hazard branches* Remove infested/hazard branches*, or remove tree & stump Remove  tree & stump
Non- Reproductive Host Low Monitor Monitor Notify your local UCCE office; consult with ISHB-FD experts to determine if species is a new reproductive host
High Monitor Monitor
ISHB Infestation Level & Management Options for High Value Trees
Host Type Hazard Level No Infestation Low Moderate Heavy Severe
Reproductive Host Low Monitor Treat and/or remove infested branches* Treat and/or remove infested branches* Treat and/or remove infested branches* Remove
tree & stump
High Monitor Treat and/or remove infested/hazard branches* Treat and/or remove infested/hazard branches* Remove infested branches*, or tree & stump Remove
tree & stump
Non- Reproductive Host Low Monitor Monitor Notify your local UCCE office; consult with ISHB-FD experts to determine if species is a new reproductive host
High Monitor Monitor


Tree Value

  • High Tree Value: Species of high economic or cultural value (e.g., heritage trees); larger and/or older trees
  • Low Tree Value: Species of low economic value; smaller and/or younger trees; trees with undesirable form, structural issues (e.g., codominant branches), or other issues (e.g., other pests)

Hazard Level:

  • High Hazard Level: Trees that might pose a high risk to people or property (e.g., trees adjacent to walkways, playgrounds, high-use lawns, parking lots)
  • Low Hazard Level: Trees that pose a low risk to people or property

Host Type

  • Reproductive Host: Plant species suitable for beetle reproduction and growth of Fusarium euwallaceae or F. kuroshium
  • Non-Reproductive Host: Plant species that have not yet proved suitable for beetle reproduction; however, these species might be susceptible to Fusarium euwallaceae or F. kuroshium

Infestation Level, based on attacks (number of entry holes observed)

  • Low Infestation Level: < 50
  • Moderate Infestation Level: ≥ 50 and < 150
  • Heavy Infestation Level: ≥150
  • Severe Infestation Level: ≥ 150 + ISHB-related dieback

* If ISHB attack is confined to the branches of host tree, prune affected branches immediately to prevent advancement to the trunk. Prune hazardous branches on high-value hosts and treat pruning wounds to prevent re-infestations.
† Definitions for tree value and hazard level vary. Classification must be determined by site and site use (e.g., economic or cultural value and risk to people or property).

The pesticide products that reduced beetle attacks in research trials are available only to state-licensed and county-registered pesticide applicators. Consumer pesticide products are not concentrated enough to control ISHB-FD. Property owners and managers should consult with a certified arborist or pest control professional for appropriate pesticide treatment. Inappropriately applied pesticides can have negative impacts on the health of the tree, beneficial organisms (bees and natural enemies), and the environment.

Trunk sprays of the contact insecticide bifenthrin in combination with the fungicide Bacillus subtilis have been demonstrated to offer some control. The goal of the trunk sprays is to kill beetles that are about to disperse from the host or that landed on the tree looking for a new host. Hence, trunk sprays should be applied when the beetles are dispersing. ISHB typically has two annual dispersion peaks during the year, one in early spring (around February) and one in late fall (from September to November). However, flight and dispersion patterns vary by year and location. A local trapping program can help determine the best timing of application for each location and year.

Systemic pesticides can be applied to the soil or injected into the trunk. They are taken up through the tree, killing the insects and fungi inside the wood. Soil injections or drenching with the insecticide imidacloprid has been shown to reduce beetle attacks, as has trunk injection with the insecticide emamectin benzoate combined with the fungicide propiconazole. It is important to consider that trunk injections require drilling into the trunk. This produces a wound in the tree that could get infected with other pathogens. Therefore, it is usually only recommended for high-value, heavily infested trees or in situations in which other application methods are not possible or advisable. Systemic pesticides should be applied either in the spring or in the fall to ensure effective uptake and distribution of pesticides throughout the trunk. Watering the tree before and after the application might assist with the movement of the pesticides within the tree.



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Eatough Jones M, Paine TD. 2015. Effect of chipping and solarization on emergence and boring activity of a recently introduced ambrosia beetle (Euwallacea sp., Coleoptera: Curculionidae: Scolytinae) in Southern California. Forest Entomology 108(4): 1852-1859.

Eatough Jones M, Kabashima J, Eskalen A, Dimson M, Mayorquin JS, Carrillo JD, Hanlon CC, Paine TD. 2017. Evaluations of insecticides and fungicides for reducing attack rates of a new invasive ambrosia beetle (Euwallacea Sp., Coleoptera: Curculionidae: Scolytinae) in infested landscape trees in California. Journal of Economic Entomology 110: 1611-1618.

Eskalen A, Stouthamer R, Lynch SC, Rugman-Jones PF, Twizeyimana M, Gonzalez A, Thibault T. 2013. Host Range of Fusarium Dieback and Its Ambrosia Beetle (Coleoptera: Scolytinae) Vector in Southern California. Plant Disease 97(7): 938-951.

University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. 2023. Invasive Shothole Borers. Oakland, CA. (Accessed 10 July 2023).

Lynch SC, Eskalen A, Gilbert GS. 2021 Host evolutionary relationships explain tree mortality caused by a generalist pest–pathogen complex. Evolutionary Applications 14:1083–1094.  

Mayorquin JS, Carrillo JD, Twizeyimana M, Peacock BB, Sugino KY, Na F, Wang DH, Kabashima J, Eskalen A. 2018. Chemical management of invasive shot hole borer and Fusarium dieback in California sycamore (Platanus racemosa) in Southern California. Plant Disease 102: 1307-1315.

Umeda C, Eskalen A, Paine TD. 2016. Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer and Fusarium Dieback in California. Ch.26 in Insects and Diseases of Mediterranean Forest Systems. Editors: Paine TD, Lieutier F. Springer International Publishing. Switzerland.


[UC Peer Reviewed]

Pest Notes: Invasive Shothole Borers
UC ANR Publication 74179         PDF to Print

Authors: Beatriz Nobua-Behrmann, UC Cooperative Extension, Orange County; Akif Eskalen, UC Davis Plant Pathology; Stacy Hishinuma, USDA Forest Service; Shannon Lynch, State Univ. of New York-Environmental Science and Forestry; Michele Eatough-Jones, UC Riverside Entomology; John Kabashima, UC Cooperative Extension, Orange County (emeritus).

Technical Editor: K Windbiel-Rojas
ANR Associate Editor: AM Sutherland
Editor: B Messenger-Sikes

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