Variation in plant defense against invasive herbivores: evidence for a hypersensitive response in eastern hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis).
Herbivores can trigger a wide array of morphological and chemical changes in their host plants. Feeding by some insects induces a defensive hypersensitive response, a defense mechanism consisting of elevated H2O2 levels and tissue death at the site of herbivore feeding. The invasive hemlock woolly adelgid Adelges tsugae ('HWA') and elongate hemlock scale Fiorinia externa ('EHS') feed on eastern hemlocks; although both are sessile sap feeders, HWA causes more damage than EHS. The rapid rate of tree death following HWA infestation has led to the suggestion that feeding induces a hypersensitive response in hemlock trees. We assessed the potential for an herbivore-induced hypersensitive response in eastern hemlocks by measuring H2O2 levels in foliage from HWA-infested, EHS-infested, and uninfested trees. Needles with settled HWA or EHS had higher H2O2 levels than control needles, suggesting a localized hypersensitive plant response. Needles with no direct contact to settled HWA also had high H2O2 levels, suggesting that HWA infestation may induce a systemic defense response in eastern hemlocks. There was no similar systemic defensive response in the EHS treatment. Our results showed that two herbivores in the same feeding guild had dramatically different outcomes on the health of their shared host.