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Narrow-spectrum insecticides are currently used to control populations of spruce budworm, Choristoneura fumiferana Clemens (Lepidoptera: Tortricidae), in eastern Canada. However, these could have nontarget impacts on other caterpillars – some of which may serve as alternative or alternate hosts to key parasitoids – that are also susceptible to control tactics. This study was conducted to determine how the insecticides, Bacillus thuringiensis variety kurstaki (Btk) and tebufenozide, used to control spruce budworm populations, impact caterpillar communities and associated parasitism rates. Post-treatment field sampling of caterpillars was conducted in 2018 and 2019 in New Brunswick, Canada, at sites treated with either Btk or tebufenozide and at control sites. Caterpillar species richness and abundance, community structure, and parasitism rates were assessed using molecular analyses for 659 collected caterpillars. We found that insecticide applications had no significant impact on abundance, species richness, or parasitism rate relative to the measurements made in the control sites. Nonetheless, a significantly higher caterpillar abundance and lower parasitism rate occurred in Btk-treated sites than in tebufenozide-treated sites. Overall, however, Btk and tebufenozide treatments did not negatively affect the non-budworm caterpillar community under the present conditions of low caterpillar densities, suggesting that parasitoids have alternative and alternate hosts after treatments that target the spruce budworm.
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