Abstract 1 Efficacy of commercial formulations of Bacillus thuringiensis ssp. kurstaki (Btk) against spruce budworm Choristoneura fumiferana was investigated in mixed balsam fir-white spruce stands. Btk treatments were scheduled to coincide with early flaring of balsam fir shoots, and later with flaring of white spruce shoots. Btk efficacy on the two host trees was compared and examined according to the foliar content of nutrients and allelochemicals and the insect developmental stage at the time of spray.
2 Larvae fed white spruce foliage were less vulnerable to Btk ingestion than larvae fed balsam fir foliage. Higher larval survival on white spruce, observed 10 days after spray, was related to higher foliage content in tannins and a lower N/tannins ratio, which might have induced inactivation of Btk toxins.
3 Larval mortality due to Btk did not depend on spruce budworm larval age.
4 Foliage protection of both host trees was similar in plots treated with Btk: larval mortality due to Btk treatment reduced insect grazing pressure on balsam fir trees; meanwhile, suitability of white spruce foliage seemed to decrease very rapidly, which induced high larval mortality among spruce budworm fed on white spruce trees. Nevertheless, following Btk sprays, 50% more foliage remained on white spruce than on balsam fir trees, because of the higher white spruce foliage production.
5 Both spray timings achieved similar protection of white spruce trees, but Btk treatments had to be applied as early as possible (i.e. during the flaring of balsam fir shoots to optimally protect balsam fir trees in mixed balsam fir-white spruce stands).