One tiny insect, the hemlock woolly adelgid, is to blame. The Asian insect first appeared in the eastern U.S. in Richmond, Va., in the 1950s. In 2003, it crossed the river from South Carolina and started feeding on Georgia trees.
The tiny pests suck up cells from the tree's needles, which prevent them from transferring water and conducting photosynthesis. The first obvious sign of an infestation is thinning foliage. Needles fall off, and the crown starts thinning. From a distance, trees look gray.
Researchers working to find ways to combat the adelgid have focused on releasing ladybird beetles, which eat adelgids. A new UGA study brings some of the logistical issues to light and offers hope for more successful control in the future. The results were published in the December issue of the Journal of Economic Entomology.
"Because the trees being attacked live mostly in remote forests where insecticide application is impractical, predators may be the best hope for tree survival," said Shimat Joseph, former UGA doctoral student who authored the journal article.
Previous studies have shown widely released predator beetles, Laricobius nigrinus and Sasajiscymnus tsugae, have been successful in controlling hemlock wooly adelgid populations, but they have not survived well through multiple seasons.
"Adelgid populations are not concentrated where we are releasing the predators," Joseph said. "Previous studies assumed populations are evenly distributed, but we are seeing that is not the case."
According to the study, adelgid populations tend to be more abundant in the upper crown, especially early in the infestation. This study suggests predator releases should focus in this area where higher densities are more likely. Up to this point, releases have been made in the lower third of the tree crown.
"Chemical control can slow the spread of adelgids, but beetles provide some hope that we will be able to manage the adelgids and bring them into balance. We may never be able to eliminate them," said Kris Braman, an entomologist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and co-author of the paper.
The three-year study looked at the population rates of adelgids in hemlocks located in the Chattahoochee National Forest. The 60 north Georgia trees selected for the study were 25 to 70 years old.
Predator beetles are reared on infested hemlock branches in labs. When released, the branches, saturated with about 100 beetles, are tied to living trees where populations have been identified. Strategic placement of the predators is important for successful control of the adelgid-and for the bottom line.
"Because the beetles are so expensive to grow, every single little beetle is like releasing diamonds over the canopy," Braman said.
A cocktail of fertilizer and insecticide was applied to the trees included in the study to develop an application ratio that would maintain tree health while keeping enough adelgids alive to serve as sustainable food for the beetles but not enough to kill the tree.
"Part of the problem with maintaining predator beetles has to do with the declining tree health," said study co-author Jim Hanula, an entomologist with the U.S. Forest Service and adjunct faculty in the UGA department of entomology. "As tree health declines, adelgids produce fewer eggs and, in turn, less food for the predators."
Georgia trees decline faster than those found in northern states due to a lack of winter weather, which kills back adelgid populations in the North.
The full article is available online at http://www.bioone.org/doi/full/10.1603/EC11022
Kris Braman | EurekAlert!
Scientists on the road to discovering impact of urban road dust
18.01.2018 | University of Alberta
Gran Chaco: Biodiversity at High Risk
17.01.2018 | Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.
We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.
Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
19.01.2018 | Materials Sciences
19.01.2018 | Health and Medicine
19.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy