Development of a rain down technique to artificially infest hemlocks with the hemlock woolly adelgid, Adelges tsugae
The hemlock woolly adelgid Adelges tsugae Annand (Hemiptera: Adelgidae), is a non-native invasive pest that has caused widespread decline and mortality of eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis (L.) Carr. (Pinales: Pinaceae)) and Carolina hemlock (T. caroliniana Engelm.) in the eastern United States. Our preliminary experiments evaluated the utility of a rain-down technique to induce artificial infestations of A. tsugae on hemlock seedlings en masse. Experiments were conducted in PVC (1 m³) cages topped with poultry wire for placement of A. tsugae-infested branches, and with 1 m² gridded glue sheets and/or hemlock seedlings placed below to capture adelgid abundance, distribution, and infestation rate data. In the March 2011 experiment, the density of progrediens crawlers (adelgid nymphs, first instars) that rained down inside the PVC cages was significantly higher in the high ovisac treatment compared to the low ovisac treatment, with an estimated 513,000 and 289,000 crawlers per m² falling beneath each treatment, respectively. Resulting A. tsugae infestation rates on Carolina hemlock seedlings placed inside the cages did not differ between the treatments but were at or above established damage threshold densities for the adelgid. Infestation rates on eastern hemlock seedlings that were placed in cages nine days after the experiment started were below damage threshold levels and did not differ between the treatments. In the May 2011 experiment, the density of sistens crawlers raining down was substantially lower, with 17,000 and 33,000 falling per m² in the low and high ovisac treatments, respectively. Resulting infestation rates on Carolina hemlock seedlings were extremely low and well below damage threshold levels. Although A. tsugae crawlers were well distributed across the 1 m² gridded glue sheets placed at the bottom of each cage, hot spots of unusually high crawler density did occur in both experiments. This rain-down technique shows potential for use in an operational tree-breeding program where screening large numbers of hemlock seedlings for resistance to A. tsugae is required.