Great Smoky Mountains National Park is using systemic imidacloprid to treat eastern hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis [L.] Carr.) infested with the exotic insect, hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae Annand). This study investigated effects of these treatments on insectivorous birds and hemlock canopy arthropod assemblages in the context of food availability for insectivorous birds. Six pairs of treated and untreated hemlock sites were studied in 2007. Territories of three hemlock-associated Neotropical migratory foliage-gleaning bird species were mapped in these six sites, and relationships between bird territory density and hemlock foliar density were examined. Canopy arthropods were sampled by clipping mid-canopy hemlock branches in each paired site. Arthropods were identified to order or suborder and categorized into bird prey guilds and non-target herbivorous insect guilds.
Despite being treated within the previous two years, there were no differences in hemlock woolly adelgid infestation between treated and untreated sites. This may reflect recovery or because the imidacloprid is slow-acting. Bird densities also did not differ between treated and untreated sites but were positively related to branch foliage mass, implying a preference in these birds for well-foliated hemlocks. A total of 10,219 hemlock woolly adelgids, and a total of 906 other arthropods from 16 orders were collected. There were no differences in species richness, abundance, or species composition between treated and untreated sites for total arthropods, or for immature arthropods ≥ 3 mm. In contrast, non-target herbivorous Hemiptera and larval Lepidoptera were significantly reduced in treated hemlocks. Although larval Lepidoptera are primary prey for insectivorous foliage-gleaning birds, the similarity in bird densities between treated and untreated sites suggests the birds are able to find other food resources in the mixed hemlock-deciduous stands where the study sites were located. Therefore, controlling hemlock woolly adelgid-induced defoliation through use of imidacloprid may have short-term benefits for hemlock-associated birds. While imidacloprid treatments did not appear to be currently affecting most arthropods, primary prey guilds should be monitored for long-term declines that could impact hemlock-associated birds.
Josephine F. Falcone, Laura E. DeWald. Comparisons of arthropod and avian assemblages in insecticide-treated and untreated eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis [L.] Carr) stands in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, USA. Forest Ecology and Management Volume 260, Issue 5, 30 July 2010, Pages 856–863