Biological control (or biocontrol for short)
Reducing pest populations (or maintaining them at a low level) using living organisms (natural enemies, biocontrol agents) or the things they produce. It is one component of an integrated pest management (IPM) strategy that helps you reduce risks to yourself and the environment.
What is biocontrol?
Pests and natural enemies might be ,, or.
Aphids and ladybugs are a biocontrol example you are probably familiar with. Ladybugs (natural enemies, biocontrol agents) eat the aphids (pests) that might otherwise damage plants.
Types of Biocontrol
- Conservation biocontrol
- Classical biocontrol
- Augmentative biocontrol
Support natural enemies that are already present by providing them with food, shelter, and protection from things that harm them (for example, pesticides)
Release a natural enemy (once or only a few times) that will reproduce and keep pest populations in check
Release or apply natural enemies repeatedly (whenever needed) to reduce pest populations
Who are they?
Looking for more info on biocontrol agents and how to use them? Start here.
The immature biocontrol agent grows and develops in or on the pest, killing it in the process. Both insects and nematodes fall into this category
Microorganisms or microbes (fungi, bacteria and viruses) and plant extracts can reduce pest populations by killing, repelling, excluding them, or by hampering their growth or reproduction. They can also boost the defenses of a plant, making it more resilient against pest attack. Microbes and plant extracts are two types of biopesticides.
Nematodes are tiny worms. Some of them reproduce in (killing in the process) insects. They are called entomopathogenic nematodes, or EPNs.
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See biocontrol in action!
Follow Amara Dunn’s biocontrol Instagram account.
In 1994, Dr. Tony Shelton (currently Professor Emeritus, Department of Entomology, Cornell University) initiated the website “Biological Control: A Guide to Natural Enemies in North America” with a grant he obtained from the National Biological Control Institute. Cathy Weeden was hired as the first editor and together they worked to create the content and design of the site. Over the next 25 years, many others were involved especially Jill Eccleston, Chris Cooley, and numerous authors of individual articles on biocontrol agents. Continued funding was provided by the Cornell Department of Entomology, Dr. Shelton’s program, and Cornell Cooperative Extension. The site was widely used by teachers, researchers, farmers, land managers and the general public, and received awards for its content and design.
With Dr. Shelton’s retirement in 2020, the responsibility for maintaining and updating the site was transferred to the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program, under the leadership of Dr. Amara Dunn (Biocontrol Specialist, NYSIPM). This transition was funded in part by the Northeastern IPM Center through Grant #2018-70006-28882 from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Crop Protection and Pest Management, Regional Coordination Program.