Are there viable chemical and non-chemical alternatives to the use of conventional insecticides for the protection of young trees from damage by the large pine weevil Hylobius abietis L. in UK forestry?
In UK forestry, the synthetic pyrethroid insecticides alpha-cypermethrin and cypermethrin have been used for many years to provide protection for young trees planted on restock sites from damage by the large pine weevil, Hylobius abietis L. However, concerns over the toxicity of these insecticides to aquatic life if misused has led to a search for alternative forms of protection. This paper describes a detailed programme of efficacy experiments undertaken between 2009 and 2014 to find replacements for these products. Over 50 combinations of chemical and non-chemical approaches were tested on 16 different sites.
Of the alternative synthetic insecticides tested, applications of 0.037 g a.i. stem-1 acetamiprid provided high levels of protection from Hylobius browsing damage on young Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carrière) trees, without causing any phytotoxic symptoms, and gave comparable levels of protection to those achievable using alpha-cypermethrin or cypermethrin. Acetamiprid is less toxic to aquatic life than alpha-cypermethrin or cypermethrin, and has not been linked to bee decline. Applications of 0.0129 g a.i. stem-1 chlorantraniliprole also showed promise, and this relatively low toxicity non-neonicotinoid insecticide merits further study. Although imidacloprid and thiacloprid also provided good levels of protection, their use in forests is not now permitted due to concerns over their potential impacts on bees and drinking water respectively.
Whilst the natural product insecticide spinosad, and the entomopathogenic fungal control agent Metarhizium anisopliae (Metschn.) Sorokin, gave only limited protection in our work, they may have some future potential if methods of deployment can be improved. Other chemical and non-chemical approaches tested, but found to be largely ineffective in UK conditions, included the natural product insecticides azadirachtin, maltodextrin and pyrethrins, the synthetic insecticides lambda-cyhalothrin and spirotetramat, and a wide range of repellents, flexible stem coatings and physical barrier products. However, we conclude that physical barrier sleeves such as MultiPro® and BioSleeve® may have a limited role as a partial substitute for the use of insecticides in the UK in some circumstances, but only if on-site populations of Hylobius are predicted to be low.