In the eastern United States, two invasive specialist insects share a native host plant, Eastern hemlock, Tsuga canadensis. In recent years, much research has focused on the impacts of the hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae) because of the detrimental effects it has on hemlock growth and survival. In contrast, the invasive elongate hemlock scale (Fiorinia externa) is thought to have only minor impacts on hemlock. We infested hemlock saplings with each insect and compared them with control (i.e., neither insect herbivore) saplings to assess how early infestations impact Eastern hemlock health (measured using new branch growth, foliar %N, and C:N ratio). Our study showed that, at equal densities, the two insects differed in their effect on Eastern hemlock. F. externa did not impact plant growth or foliar chemistry over the course of the 2-yr experiment. A. tsugae significantly reduced plant growth and caused a reduction of %N in the first year of the experiment. By the end of the experiment, A. tsugae trees had the same %N in their foliage as control and F. externa trees but drastically reduced growth patterns. The most likely explanation for this result is the greater growth in control and F. externa saplings during the second year resulted in the dilution of available foliar N over a larger amount of newly produced plant tissue. For early infestations of both insects, our study suggests that management plans should focus on the more detrimental A. tsugae.
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