Biological Studies and Evaluation of Scymnus Coniferarum, a Predator of Hemlock Woolly Adelgid from Western North America
The hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA), Adelges tsugae Annand, is an invasive pest of eastern hemlock, Tsuga canadensis (L.) Carriere and Carolina hemlock Tsuga caroliniana Englem. in the eastern United States. A newly reported beetle predator for HWA, Scymnus (Pullus) coniferarum Crotch (Coleoptera: Cocinellidae) preys on the pest in the western United States, and was approved for release in the eastern United States for the control of HWA. This research investigated the viability of S. coniferarum as a biological control agent of A. tsugae in the eastern United States, as well as the ecological dynamics between S. coniferarum and host prey species in its native range of western North America.
In objective one, S. coniferarum predation, reproductive potential, and survival were evaluated in field-cages on adelgid infested T. canadensis in southwestern Virginia. Adult S. coniferarum fed on both generations and all life stages of A. tsugae at rates comparable to other adelgid-specific predators, and survived for extended periods of time in the field. In objective two, host-range tests for S. coniferarum were conducted in a series of no-choice and paired-choice feeding, oviposition, and development studies. Scymnus coniferarum adults fed on all adelgid species, and completed development on HWA and Adelges piceae Ratz. Scymmnus coniferarum oviposition was extremely low. In the final objective, Douglas-fir, Pseudotusga menziesii Mirb., Shore pine, Pinus contorta Dougl., western white pine, Pinus monticola Dougl., and western hemlock, Tsuga heterophylla (Raf.) Sarg. host tree species were sampled in Tacoma, Washington to investigate the life history of S. coniferarum and associated adelgid prey species in the western United States. Scymnus coniferarum adults were found on both pine species, Douglas fir, and western hemlock, and seemed to move between host tree species seasonally. Each host tree supports a different adelgid species, and a limited diet of strictly HWA in host-range tests could have contributed to low oviposition rates.
This study suggested that S. coniferarum is a voracious predator of HWA in the field and laboratory. However, S. coniferarum laid very few eggs in laboratory studies, and zero eggs were recovered in field-cage analyses. This suggested that S. coniferarum may rely on multiple adelgid species to reproduce and establish in the eastern United States.