Impact of an invasive insect and plant defense on a native forest defoliator.
Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis [L.] Carriére) in the United States is threatened by the invasive hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae Annand). The native hemlock looper (Lambdina fiscellaria Guenée) also appears to have played a role in previous population declines of this conifer. Although these two insects co-occur in much of the adelgid's invaded range, their interactions remain unstudied. We assessed looper performance and preference on both uninfested and adelgid-infested foliage from adelgid-susceptible hemlocks, as well as on uninfested foliage from an eastern hemlock that is naturally adelgid-resistant. Larvae reared on uninfested foliage from adelgid-susceptible hemlocks experienced 60% mortality within the first two weeks of the experiment, and pupated at a lower weight than larvae fed adelgid-infested foliage. Despite differences in foliage source, this first look and strong pattern suggests that the hemlock looper performs better (pupates earlier, weighs more) on adelgid-infested foliage. In addition, trends suggested that larvae reared on foliage from the adelgid-resistant tree survived better, pupated earlier, and weighed more than in the other treatments. Larvae preferred adelgid-resistant over adelgid-susceptible foliage. Our results suggest that looper perform slightly better on adelgid-infested foliage and that plant resistance to xylem-feeding adelgid may increase susceptibility to foliar-feeding looper larvae.