Individual larvae of western spruce budworm (Choristoneura occidentalis Freeman) were observed from overwintering emergence to pupation at six locations spread over a wide range of altitudes and thus climate. A weekly census of 100 lower-crown buds per plot indicated large differences in rates of bud development and larval survival among locations.
Emerging second-instar larvae attempted to mine swelling buds of Douglas-fir. If the buds were hard and tight, larvae mined 1-year-old needles until penetrable buds were available. Larvae dispersed over the crowns with only one larva becoming established in each bud; thus, many early-emerging and surplus larvae could not find suitable feeding sites and disappeared. Within the protective bud, survival was high. After buds flushed and larvae became exposed, densities dropped, probably due to increased predation and decreased food quality. Correlations indicated a close association between larval survival for the exposed period between bud flush and pupation, and overall larval survival.
Douglas-fir trees responded to initial bud removal, but not to needle removal, by inducing latent buds in the axils of needles to grow into active vegetative buds ready to develop and flush the next spring. The number of these new vegetative buds formed was greatest when the initial buds were removed early in the season before flush, and decreased thereafter. Trees with vigorous crowns had the greatest response to defoliation by inducing the largest number of latent buds into becoming active vegetative buds; these were found mainly on the 2- and 3-year-old internodes.