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Pest Problem Guide

Biocontrol Reference Center

Beneficial Arthropods

Courtesy of the International Pest Management Institute.
Currie Enterprises

My Enemy's Enemy is My Friend

Today, many growers, pest control advisors, pest managers, and home gardeners make use of natural predators, parasites, bacteria, and other "beneficial organisms". Those of you familiar with the biological management arsenal already know the importance of proper planning. Those of you just now coming aboard can save yourself time, money, and frustration by learning the importance of:

Proper Species

  • Identify the primary pest (secondary pests are often just as important as primary pests, but are usually "created" in response to pesticidal attempts aimed at the primary pest).

  • Identify enemies of the pest (literature available)

  • Include this information in your pest management strategy.
When possible, choose the more specialized predator or parasite available. For example, Trichogramma spp. is an egg parasite for more than 200 species of moth and butterfly eggs thereby preventing the damaging caterpillars from emerging (refer to Trichogramma literature for more details) but, once emerged, the caterpillar is preyed upon by various general feeders, a host of parasites, perhaps viruses, even vertebrates. The first line of defense is the egg parasite. By reducing the initial number of caterpillars present to damage the plant, other natural controls may be sufficient to keep the pest populations below the economic damaging level. Predatory mites are well suited for introduction to control pest mites. Making the proper choice is crucial. Most natural predators and parasites are not commercially available; many are actually still unknown. But, information is available to aid in the best choice of those predators or parasites that are available today.


Proper timing is a crucial aspect of biological management when releasing predators or parasites. For parasites a host must be available. In some cases (Trichogramma spp.) regular (i.e. weekly) releases are possible since a number of hosts are available to allow the population of parasites to increase before the target pest is present. But, when using a parasite of a particular life cycle stage (in this case an egg parasite), the parasite must be present in sufficient numbers when the necessary stage of the target pest is present. (Trichogramma will be of no help if released when caterpillars are already present). The white fly parasite Encarsia formosa, on the other hand, should not be introduced without the pest being present. And, while some predators are able to survive periods without a food source, most do require a continuous food supply. So, if the predator is specific (i.e. predatory mites to combat pest mites), introduction must be made when the pest is present (or even WITH the pest) but BEFORE the pest population is too high to achieve adequate control. On the other hand, if the predator is not specific (i.e. green lacewing), introduction may be made as long as some food source is available. Releases made over a period of time will allow the predator population to increase.

Proper Application

Deliver a sufficient amount of predator or parasites in good condition as close as possible to the target area. In some cases, proper application really is just a matter of good planning and handling of the shipment. Always take proper precautions for receiving the organisms and maintaining a reasonable environment before they are released into your field, orchard, greenhouse, garden or ornamental plantings. Proper handling is essential for these organisms to survive and function. The rate of application can be very important. Guidelines are available for many of the commercially available organisms. Don't wait until the pest population is too high. You can save money by properly timing your release. Methods of application vary from manual ground releases to aerial releases over large acreage. Much is lacking in the practical application of present delivery systems. However, the increased interest in large scale delivery systems is very promising.

Favorable Environment

One of the most important aspects of biological management is maintaining an environment that favors natural predators and parasites as much as possible. In some cases, cover crops properly maintained will offer an abundance of predators and parasites. The introduction of commercially reared natural predators or parasites will be most successful when temperature and humidity factors are considered. Optimum conditions are maintained at the insectary; care is taken to insure proper shipping conditions (organisms are usually shipped in the most protective stage of their life cycle); proper handling at the destination is very important (do not leave in a hot mailbox or vehicle); and proper application includes temperature consideration (do not apply during the hottest part of the day). Also, consider known requirements when selecting species (for example some predatory mites require a minimum relative humidity of 60%, others only 40%).


Ladybug beetles (a variety of species), including Cycloneda snaguinea, Scimnus ioewi, Colomegilla matulata, Hippodamia convergens, and others are predatory adult beetles that attack a variety of insect pests (aphids, scale, thrips, mealybugs, leafhoppers, potato beetles, weevils, bean beetles) on wheat, cotton, grass, maize, sorghum, and cultivated plants. Ladybug beetles are commonly used in citrus crops, alfalfa, sugar cane, cacao, walnuts, grape, sesame, apple, anise, pepper, ornamental plants and lettuce crops.

Each ladybug larvae can eat up to 400 aphids in three to four weeks, and the adults can eat up to 5,000 aphids in one season. In good years, several generations of ladybugs may be produced.

Suggested quantities of adult ladybug beetles are released and then prey on insect pests.

Ladybugs fly away when it gets too hot and seek cooler spots. To encourage them to stay:

  • Refrigerate until releasing;

  • sprinkle water around area before releasing;

  • release in the evening;

  • gently spread them out over the entire infested area so each can find food;

  • order in the spring at the first sign of infestation so adults will have time to lay eggs before it gets too hot.

Webkeeper: E. W. Acosta - mailto:info@biconet.com Last Update: May 06
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