Establishment, hybridization and impact of Laricobius predators on insecticide-treated hemlocks: Exploring integrated management of the hemlock woolly adelgid
An integrated management approach is needed to maintain eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis (L.) Carrière) in eastern North America and to minimize tree damage and mortality caused by the invasive hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae Annand). This study examined the hypothesis that chemical control with low rates of insecticide and biological control can be combined in the same stand to impact adelgid populations, prolong crown health, and allow predator proliferation. Sixty T. canadensis trees in northern Georgia were individually treated via soil injection with 0%, 10%, or 25% of the label rate of imidacloprid insecticide, and the biological control predator Laricobius nigrinus Fender was released in the stand, two and four years later. By year seven, hemlocks treated with the 25% imidacloprid rate lost their insecticide protection, had significantly better crown health and higher adelgid densities than untreated trees, and supported as many Laricobius predator larvae as untreated trees. In year seven, no residues of imidacloprid were detected in Laricobius larvae feeding on previously-treated hemlocks. Most (77%) of the predators collected on study trees were identified as L. nigrinus, 12% were the native congener Laricobius rubidus LeConte, and 11% were hybrids between the introduced and native species. The hybridization rate remained stable over time. The density of undisturbed A. tsugae ovisacs was twice as high on branches protected from predators as compared with branches exposed to predators. Results suggest that chemical and biological control of A. tsugae can be successfully integrated to help prolong hemlock health, although additional predators may be necessary to protect hemlock trees in the southern Appalachians.