Tree species richness around urban red maples reduces pest density but does not enhance biological control

Caleb J. Wilson, Kristi M. Backe, Michael G. Just, Eleanor C. Lahr, Annemarie M. Nagle, Lawrence C. Long, Adam G. Dale, Steven D. Frank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Urban trees often host greater insect pest abundance than trees in rural forests. This may be due, in part, to differences in tree diversity and canopy cover between these settings. Urban trees are often planted in isolation or monoculture, which favors pest accumulation. Gloomy scale, Melanaspis tenebricosa Comstock, is a pest of urban red maples (Acer rubrum L.) that is abundant where impervious surfaces dominate the local landscape. Increasing tree diversity and canopy cover around urban red maples may reduce gloomy scale abundance by supporting natural enemy communities. We investigated the effect that surrounding tree species richness and tree canopy cover had on gloomy scale abundance, natural enemy abundance, and biological control in red maple trees in Raleigh, NC, USA. We collected scales and natural enemies from red maples that spanned a gradient of tree species richness, canopy cover, and impervious surface values. We also measured gloomy scale parasitism and predation of sentinel prey in red maple canopies. Greater tree species richness and canopy cover were associated with lower gloomy scale density. Red maples in diverse settings also hosted fewer scales per natural enemy. Parasitoids were less common in maples in diverse settings, but generalist predator abundance was unaffected by tree diversity. Finally, tree species richness and canopy cover did not increase biological control of scales or sentinel prey. Our findings suggest that higher tree diversity and greater canopy cover may reduce gloomy scale density, but this is not entirely explained by the effects of natural enemies and biological control.

Original languageEnglish
Article number128093
JournalUrban Forestry and Urban Greening
StatePublished - Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023


  • Biological control
  • Natural enemies
  • Scale insect
  • Tree diversity
  • Urban

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Ecology
  • Soil Science


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