iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


Dutch elm disease and elm bark beetles: a century of association

Alberto Santini (1)   , Massimo Faccoli (2)

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 8, Issue 2, Pages 126-134 (2015)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor1231-008
Published: Aug 07, 2014 - Copyright © 2015 SISEF

Review Papers

Collection/Special Issue: 3rd International Elm Conference, Florence (Italy - 2013)
The elms after 100 years of Dutch Elm disease
Guest Editors: A. Santini, L. Ghelardini, E. Collin, A. Solla, J. Brunet, M. Faccoli, A. Scala, S. De Vries, J. Buiteveld

Bark beetles of the genus Scolytus Geoffroy are the main vectors of the fungus Ophiostoma ulmi s.l., which causes the Dutch elm disease. The large and small elm bark beetles - S. scolytus (F.) and S. multistriatus (Marsham), respectively - are the most common and important species spreading the pathogen worldwide. The success of the pathogen-insect interactions is mainly due to the characteristic reproductive behavior of the elm bark beetles, which, however, largely depends on the occurrence of infected trees. During feeding activity on elm twigs, callow adults carrying pathogen conidia on their bodies contaminate healthy trees and facilitate pathogen development and movement within the wood vessels. Infected trees become then suitable for insect breeding in the stem bark. This well-known mutualistic association has devastating consequences for elm survival. Although much is known about insect-pathogen interactions and transmission mechanisms, many topics still deserve additional attention, as, for example, beetle systematic based on new molecular tools and morphological characters; selection of European elm clones based on disease avoidance; consequences of global warming on life-history of the three organisms (fungus-insect-tree) involved in the pathosystem; new problems resulting from the rapid increase of international trade among continents, leading to the accidental introduction of new vector species or new pathogen species or races, or to the introduction of new highly susceptible elm species in gardens and public parks. A holistic approach to tackle the problem is highly recommended, taking into account how these organisms interact with each other and the environment, and how their interactions could be modified in order to face one of the most destructive diseases ever known in plant pathology.


Dutch Elm Disease, Elm Barck Beetles, Scolytus-Ophiostoma Interactions, DED Cycle, Avoidance Mechanisms, Disease Escape, Resistance

Authors’ address

Alberto Santini
Institute of Sustainable Plant Protection, CNR, v. Madonna del Piano 10, I-50019 Sesto Fiorentino (FI - Italy)
Massimo Faccoli
Department of Agronomy, Food, Natural Resources, Animals and Environment (DAFNAE), Agripolis, v.le dell’Università 16, I-35020 Legnaro (PD - Italy)

Corresponding author

Alberto Santini


Santini A, Faccoli M (2015). Dutch elm disease and elm bark beetles: a century of association. iForest 8: 126-134. - doi: 10.3832/ifor1231-008

Academic Editor

Marco Borghetti

Paper history

Received: Jan 02, 2014
Accepted: May 18, 2014

First online: Aug 07, 2014
Publication Date: Apr 01, 2015
Publication Time: 2.70 months

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