Interspecific interactions among tree-killing bark beetle species may have ecologically important consequences on beetle population dynamics. Using two tree-killing beetle species (Dendroctonus brevicomis and D. frontalis), we performed observational and experimental studies to verify cross-attraction and co-colonization under field conditions in northern Arizona and test the effects of gallery density and species ratio on response variables of average gallery length, offspring size (progeny fitness), and offspring production per centimeter gallery (fecundity). Our results show that both D. frontalis and D. brevicomis aggregate to pheromones synthesized de novo by D. brevicomis under field conditions and that galleries of both D. brevicomis and D. frontalis occurred together in the same region of a single host tree with significant frequency. In experimental manipulations of species ratios, the presence of conspecific beetles in the gallery environment strongly mediated fecundity, but D. frontalis was the only species that suffered negative impacts from the presence of heterospecific beetles in the gallery environment. Interactions did not result in any apparent fitness effects for progeny of either species, which suggests that multispecies aggregations and co-colonization may be a dominant ecological strategy in the region and result in niche sharing.
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