Fitness and Physiology of the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, Adelges tsugae, in Relation to the Health of the Eastern Hemlock, Tsuga canadensis
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The hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA), Adelges tsugae Annand (Hemiptera: Sternorrhyncha: Adelgidae) is a small invasive insect that frequently causes hemlock (Tsugae spp.) mortality in the eastern United States. Studies have shown that once healthy hemlocks become infested by the adelgid, nutrients are depleted from the tree, leading to both tree decline and a reduction of the adelgid population. Since A. tsugae is dependent on hemlock for nutrients, feeding on trees in poor health may affect the insect's ability to obtain necessary nutrients and consequently affect their population and physiological health. A cluster analysis, based on quantitative and qualitative tree health measurements, grouped sample trees into categories of lightly and moderately impacted trees. The A. tsugae population health on each tree was determined by measuring insect density, survival from aestivation, and peak fecundity. A. tsugae physiological health was determined similarly by measuring insect biomass, total carbon, carbohydrate, total nitrogen, and amino nitrogen. A. tsugae from moderately impacted trees exhibited significantly greater fecundity; however, A. tsugae from lightly impacted hemlocks contained significantly greater levels of carbohydrates, total nitrogen, and amino nitrogen. All A. tsugae physiological parameters increased significantly over time as the insects matured and reproduced regardless of tree health classification. While the results of the physiological analysis generally support our hypothesis that A. tsugae on lightly impacted trees are healthier than those on moderately impacted trees, this was not reflected in the population fitness measurements of the insects. Further examination of A. tsugae egg health may elucidate this apparent contradiction.
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