EFFECTS OF IMPERVIOUS SURFACES ON OVERWINTERING SURVIVAL OF EVERGREEN BAGWORM AND ABUNDANCE OF SCALE INSECT PESTS IN THE URBAN ENVIRONMENT
Urban areas are warmer than surrounding rural areas. During the cold of winter, warming increases surrounding host temperature and may improve the overwintering survival of marginally hardy insects like evergreen bagworms. Similarly, during the summer, it has the potential to increase the fecundity and abundance of sap feeding insect pests such as scale insects in ways that change the capacity of their natural enemies to regulate their populations.
Although in parts of Indiana winters can be cold enough to kill bagworm eggs, they thrive in cities. I conducted field experiments to determine the extent to which impervious surface near an infestation could keep temperatures warm enough to affect bagworm survival during cold of winter. My results suggest that the percentage of live eggs inside overwintering pupae decreased as ambient temperature drops. This response was moderated by the presence of impervious surface around an infested plant. Eggs found in bagworms collected from host trees surrounded by more impervious surface had a higher chance of survival than those collected from trees with low levels of hardscape. However, impervious surface has its limit such that egg mortality was not buffered by impervious surfaces at temperatures at or below -21.67°C. Similarly, I also conducted field experiments with sap feeding insects on honeylocust trees, a commonly planted tree in cities. Hot sites had a mean daily temperature more than 1.5 °C warmer than cool sites and scale insects were more abundant and fecund on trees in the hottest part of Indianapolis compared to cooler areas. No differences were observed in rates of parasitism on the scale insect. However, I found strong density dependence relation between parasitoids and scales abundance at scale density at or below the levels present in cool sites. The top-down regulation was prevalent at or below a critical density of scale hosts. Conversely, bottom-up regulation was prevalent above this host density as pests benefit from bottom-up factors. This suggests that urban habitats helped the scales to escape biological control by resident natural enemies above critical density of scale hosts.
My findings can be useful to landscape designers to design landscapes that are less prone to insect pests. My finding adds to a growing body of evidence that suggests that planting urban trees with lesser amount of impervious surface can help reducing the urban warming effect and increase the regulation from natural enemies.