Epidemic populations of Enaphalodes rufulus (Haldeman), red oak borer, a native longhorned wood boring beetle, were implicated as a major contributor to a recent widespread oak mortality event in the Ozark National Forest of Arkansas. We assessed potential factors affecting suitability of a primary host Quercus rubra L., northern red oak, which experienced dieback and mortality throughout two successive borer cohorts. We sampled trees with various E. rufulus infestation levels during 2001–2003 when populations were at outbreak levels and 2003–2005 when borer numbers were declining. We measured phloem thickness and calculated a vigor index; the ratio of the past 5-yr basal area increment to sapwood area. We also counted established first year larval feeding galleries and outer-bark adult emergence holes and measured surface area of feeding galleries on a subset of Q. rubra to assess the importance of host susceptibility versus suitability. Phloem thickness did not exhibit any patterns among hosts of varying infestation levels and was therefore not likely an important factor limiting larval success. Less vigorous Q. rubra appeared to be the most suitable hosts, although it is unclear whether reduced vigor was initially caused by stress of E. rufulus infestation or environmental factors. Host suitability seems to be more important than host susceptibility, as numbers of initiated galleries were not consistently different among host infestation classes and between both cohorts, whereas numbers of emerging adults did differ predictably among host infestation classes.
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