Variation in budburst phenology among individual trees of interior Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca [Beissn.] Franco) may influence their susceptibility to western spruce budworm (Choristoneura occidentalis Freeman) defoliation. We tested the hypothesis that phenological asynchrony between Douglas-fir and the western spruce budworm is a mechanism of resistance using clones derived from parent trees that showed resistance versus susceptibility to C. occidentalis defoliation in the field. Susceptible clones had earlier budburst phenology compared with resistant clones when they were grown in a common greenhouse environment, demonstrating a genetic basis for parallel phenological differences exhibited by the parent trees. We tested the importance of phenological asynchrony as a factor influencing fitness of C. occidentalis using two different greenhouse bioassay experiments. One experiment compared western spruce budworm performance on equivalent phenological stages of susceptible and resistant clones by matching larval feeding to the columnar (fourth) bud development stage of each clone. Larvae reared on resistant clones had greater realized fitness (i.e., number of F1 offspring produced) than those reared on susceptible clones when the influence of variation in budburst phenology was minimized. In the other experiment, western spruce budworm larvae were placed on all trees on the same date when ≈50% of all terminal buds in the population were in the yellow (second) budburst stage. Larvae reared on susceptible clones had greater realized fitness than those reared on resistant clones when the influence of phenological asynchrony was expressed. Our results suggest that resistant phenotypes of Douglas-fir have negative effects on survival and reproduction of C. occidentalis under the natural conditions that insects and trees experience in the field. Genetic variation among trees in budburst phenology has an important influence on interactions between the western spruce budworm and Douglas-fir.
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Vol. 96 • No. 2