Cornell releases predator beetle to battle hemlock pest

Nov 11, 2009 By Krishna Ramanujan
Laricobius nigrinus. Photo: Ashley Lamb, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

(PhysOrg.com) -- Cornell researchers released a well-studied beetle predator to test its ability to ward off a hemlock-killing aphid-like insect.

Hemlock woolly adelgids (HWA) -- aphidlike insects that have destroyed stands of hemlocks throughout the East Coast -- were first identified in hemlocks in the central Finger Lakes in summer 2008 and then in trees in Cornell Plantations' natural areas in early spring 2009.

To battle the hemlock-killing insects, a team of entomologists has released one of the adelgids' as a local case study. Specifically, researchers from Cornell, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and University of Massachusetts-Amherst released 900 Laricobius nigrinus into a stand of adelgid-infested hemlocks on Cornell Plantations land near Lansing and at two other sites on Seneca Lake.

L. nigrinus beetles are native to the Pacific Northwest, where the black, 3-milllimeter-long beetle keeps HWA in check by preying on them. As HWA spread through the Northeast, the insects flourished and decimated hemlocks, since no natural predators lived in the region. HWA avoid predators by growing in the winter. But L. nigrinus beetles have synchronous life cycles with the HWA, and they feed and grow during winter.

"It's important to reassure people, the release of this beetle is not haphazard," said Mark Whitmore, a Cornell forest entomologist in the Department of Natural Resources. "People have been studying L. nigrinus for a long time and have established that it will feed only on adelgids and successfully reproduce only on a diet of HWA."

The Lansing site was ideal for the case study, the researchers said, since the hemlocks there are only lightly infested with HWA, and there are many hemlocks to sustain a long-term study.

Volunteers trained to identify adelgids by Whitmore and Cornell Plantations staff discovered the Lansing site last spring. The site will be left untreated with pesticides for 10 years to study how well the L. nigrinus beetles become established, said Todd Bittner, director of natural areas.

If the experiment proves successful the researchers expect the population will take two to three years to build to levels where they can be readily detected.

Cornell natural areas staff will continue to survey Cornell Plantations, train volunteers and research strategies for stopping the spread of adelgids, Bittner said.

Provided by Cornell University (news : web)

Explore further: The right amount of grazing builds diverse forest ecosystems

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Japanese beetle may help fight hemlock-killing insect

Sep 10, 2007

The eastern hemlock, a tall, long-lived coniferous tree that shelters river and streamside ecosystems throughout the eastern United States and Canada, is in serious danger of extinction because a tiny, non-native ...

Researchers test biological ways to control alfalfa pest

May 01, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Cornell researchers are spending time in the fields this spring collecting 20,000 alfalfa snout beetles. They need them to test ways to biologically control the pests, which devour alfalfa ...

Recommended for you

Seeds keep vital much longer when stored without oxygen

4 hours ago

If seed breeding companies, gene banks and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault on Spitsbergen should store plant seeds under oxygen-poor conditions, it would be possible to store them for much longer while still ...

Native species may be hindering fox control efforts

4 hours ago

Native species interfering with ground distributed baits used to control red foxes in south west Western Australia may mean the baits are not available to the target species, a Murdoch University study has ...

Giant anteaters kill two hunters in Brazil

Jul 26, 2014

Giant anteaters in Brazil have killed two hunters in separate incidents, raising concerns about the animals' loss of habitat and the growing risk of dangerous encounters with people, researchers said.

Study indicates large raptors in Africa used for bushmeat

Jul 24, 2014

Bushmeat, the use of native animal species for food or commercial food sale, has been heavily documented to be a significant factor in the decline of many species of primates and other mammals. However, a new study indicates ...

User comments : 0