Taxonomic Affiliations

Insect orders that include species commonly referred to as borers include Lepidoptera, Coleoptera, Hymenoptera, and Diptera. The most varied and numerous representatives are among the moths and the beetles. The primitive wasps, which include the horntails (Siricidae), wood wasps (Xiphydriidae and Syntexidae), and sawflies (Tenthredinidae and Cephidae), are the only representatives of the Hymenoptera. The horntails and wood wasps prefer to colonize weakened hosts and the larvae construct feeding galleries in the wood. Larvae of boring sawfly species often feed within the center of tender shoots, twigs, and stems of their host plants. There are a small number of fly species in the family Agromyzidae with life history strategies that leave injury patterns that could be characterized as boring, but the larvae actually mine the cambial tissue, and the trees overgrow the galleries and the mine remains in the wood.

There are many moth families in the Lepidoptera that include species of larval borers. Among the most important families comprising only species that have a boring life history or having large numbers of boring species are the Hepialidae (ghost moths or swifts), the Sesiidae (clearwing moths), the Cossidae (carpenterworm and leopard moths), and the Tortricidae (leafroller and olethreutine). Larvae of the Hepialidae and the Cossidae tunnel extensively into the wood of their host plants and can cause substantial damage. Larvae of many species of Tortricidae bore through the twigs and tender terminals of vigorous trees and shrubs, whereas the life histories of species of Sesiidae can be highly variable and may include boring in bark, cambium, wood, roots, or gall tissues. Other families of Lepidoptera with at least some species that can be characterized as borers include the Agonoxenidae, Argyresthiidae, Gelechiidae, Momphidae, Nepticulidae, Noctuidae, Pterophoridae, Pyralidae, and Thyrididae. Larvae of one important agricultural pest, the European corn borer, Ostrinia nubialis (Lepidoptera: Crambidae), bore into the stems of woody host seedlings as well as the stems of grasses, grains, and herbaceous host plants.

The Coleoptera include a large number families composed exclusively of species with larvae that are boring or having very few representatives that have evolved alternative life history strategies. Although not an entirely comprehensive list, the families include Anobiidae (deathwatch and drugstore beetles), Bostrichidae (false powderpost beetles), Brentidae (brentid beetles), Buprestidae (metallic or flatheaded wood borers), Cerambycidae (longhorned or roundheaded wood borers), Lyctidae (powderpost beetles), Lymexylidae (timber beetles), Platypodidae (ambrosia beetles), and Scolytidae (bark beetles). The Curculionidae (snout beetles or weevils) is a very diverse family that includes a number of species with larvae that bore into plant tissues.

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