Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Riggins, John J.

Committee Member

Londo, Andrew J

Committee Member

Layton, Jr. Blake M

Committee Member

Ulyshen, Darragh Michael

Committee Member

Shelton, Thomas G

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Entomology and Plant Pathology

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology and Plant Pathology


Bark beetles regulate forest succession by removing weakened or stressed trees and exposing understory species to light from canopy gaps. Subterranean termites are predominate decomposers of coarse woody debris in southern pine forests; however, little is known about their role in forest health and succession. Both groups of insects rely heavily on fungal symbioses to fill their respective ecological niches in southern pine forests. During recent inspections of southern pine timber, we observed that trees in the early stages of bark beetle attack often had subterranean termites in blue-stained portions of the trunk. The frequency of subterranean termite presence in blue-stained areas of trees increased proportionally to the stage of bark beetle attack. However, practically no research has undertaken the challenge of describing how woody resources created by bark beetles are identified and utilized by subterranean termites before any signs of stress are visible. Therefore, this study examined possible facilitative interactions between subterranean termites, bark beetles and their blue-stain fungal associates, and other invertebrates, and investigated the effect of blue-stain fungi on surface properties of wood. Both native (Reticulitermes spp.) and Formosan subterranean termites exhibited a higher feeding preference for blue-stained sapwood than for unstained sapwood in laboratory assays. Native subterranean termites also consumed blue-stained sapwood at a higher rate than decayed wood. This study was the first to demonstrate that wood containing a non-decay fungus could elicit a feeding response from subterranean termites greater than that observed for decayed wood. Additionally, the surface properties of bark beetle-attacked southern pine were initially reduced by blue-stain fungal infection; however, the process of kiln-drying reversed this effect, resulting in a surface that was more conducive to wood product manufacturing.