The Hemlock Restoration Initiative’s partners at Western Carolina University (WCU) and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services Plant Industry Division Beneficial Insect Lab (BIL) are embarking on a new study that could inform how predators are used to control the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA). Recently, their research got some media attention on WLOS.
Currently, HRI and other partners are releasing a natural predator of HWA, the Laricobius nigrinus beetle—nicknamed “little Lari”—in its adult stage. This requires collecting Lari beetles from their native range in the northwest U.S. or rearing them from eggs in laboratories such as the state’s Beneficial Insect Lab. HRI has been actively releasing and recovering the “little Lari” beetles in western North Carolina since our inception.
WCU’s is now studying whether Lari beetles can be successfully released in the wild in their egg stage, and subsequently complete their life cycle and do their job of munching on adelgid. To do so, they have placed Laricobius eggs near hemlocks at a study site, and will monitor the survival rates of the beetles that emerge.
The results of this study may inform HRI’s biological control program. If the Lari beetle can continue its track record of eating adelgid after being released at the egg stage, we can streamline our biocontrol methods and our partners can reduce the resources currently used to rear the beetles to adulthood. We are looking forward to learning about and implementing the results of this study from our partners at WCU and BIL.