Application of biochar to managed agricultural and forest ground has been demonstrated to increase soil fertility and productivity and may aid in the retention of H2O and water-soluble nutrients thereby improving water quality while reducing soil acidity and nutrient leaching. However, there have been few studies that examine potential effects of biochar on insect communities. We examined the direct effects of one formulation of dry biochar on survival of four species of common forest insects: major adult workers of the thatch ants, Formica obscuripes Forel (Hymenoptera: Formicidae); adult bark beetles, Ips pini (Say) (Coleoptera: Curculionidae: Scolytinae) and adults of two bark beetle predators, Temnochila chlorodia (Mannerheim) (Coleoptera: Trogossitidae) and Enoclerus sphegeus (Fabricius) (Coleoptera: Cleridae). There was a significant reduction in survival for three of the four species (F. obscuripes, I. pini and T. chlorodia) when exposed to dry biochar in confined arenas. The decreased survival only occurred when the insects had direct contact with the material. Further, while exposure to all particle sizes significantly decreased survival, the decreased survival was not different among the particle sizes tested (< 150 mm, > 1.0 mm, or a combination of particle sizes). The results demonstrate a potential for negative impacts on multiple insect species following exposure to dry biochar. However, additional work examining insect exposure to the material under field conditions is required to fully understand the potential impacts of biochar on insect populations and communities.
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Vol. 92 • No. 1