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Parasitoid community responds indiscriminately to fluctuating spruce budworm (Lepidoptera: Tortricidae) and other caterpillars on balsam fir (Pinaceae)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 April 2021

Christopher J. Greyson-Gaito*
Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1, Canada
Kevin S. McCann
Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1, Canada
Jochen Fründ
Department of Biometry and Environmental System Analysis, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Freiburg, 79085, Germany
Christopher J. Lucarotti
Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, Atlantic Forestry Centre, Fredericton, New Brunswick, E3B 5P7, Canada Population Ecology Group, Faculty of Forestry and Environmental Management, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, New Brunswick, E3B 5A3, Canada
M. Alex Smith
Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1, Canada
Eldon S. Eveleigh
Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, Atlantic Forestry Centre, Fredericton, New Brunswick, E3B 5P7, Canada Population Ecology Group, Faculty of Forestry and Environmental Management, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, New Brunswick, E3B 5A3, Canada
*Corresponding author. Email:


The world is astoundingly variable, and organisms – from individuals to whole communities – must respond to variability to survive. One example of nature’s variability is the fluctuations in populations of spruce budworm, Choristoneura fumiferana Clemens (Lepidoptera: Tortricidae), which cycle every 35 years. In this study, we examined how a parasitoid community altered its parasitism of budworm and other caterpillar species in response to these fluctuations. Budworm and other caterpillar species were sampled from balsam fir (Pinaceae) in three plots for 14 years in Atlantic Canada, then were reared to identify any emerging parasitoids. We found that the parasitoid community generally showed an indiscriminate response (i.e., no preference, where frequencies dictated parasitism rates) to changes in budworm frequencies relative to other caterpillar species on balsam fir. We also observed changes in topology and distributions of interaction strengths between the parasitoids, budworm, and other caterpillar species as budworm frequencies fluctuated. Our study contributes to the hypothesis that hardwood trees are a critical part of the budworm–parasitoid food web, where parasitoids attack other caterpillar species on hardwood trees when budworm populations are low. Taken together, our results show that a parasitoid community collectively alters species interactions in response to variable budworm frequencies, thereby fundamentally shifting food-web pathways.

Research Papers
© The authors, and Her Majesty, the Queen, in right of Canada, 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Entomological Society of Canada

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Subject editor: Christie Bahlai


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