The fungal pathogen Entomophaga maimaiga Humber, Shimazu, and Soper is prevalent in gypsy moth [Lymantria dispar (L.)] populations throughout North America. To understand how weather-related variables influence gypsy moth—E. maimaiga interactions in the field, we measured fungal infection rates at 12 sites in central Pennsylvania over 3 yr, concurrently measuring rainfall, soil moisture, humidity, and temperature. Fungal mortality was assessed using both field-collected larvae and laboratory-reared larvae caged on the forest floor. We found significant positive effects of moisture-related variables (rainfall, soil moisture, and relative humidity) on mortality due to fungal infection in both data sets, and significant negative effects of temperature on the mortality of field-collected larvae. Lack of a clear temperature relationship with the mortality of caged larvae may be attributable to differential initiation of infection by resting spores and conidia or to microclimate effects. These relationships may be helpful in understanding how gypsy moth dynamics vary across space and time, and in forecasting how the gypsy moth and fungus will interact as they move into warmer or drier areas, or new weather conditions occur due to climate change.
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Vol. 43 • No. 3