Fact Sheet: Promoting Beneficial Insects factsheet

Download the factsheet: Promoting Beneficial Insects factsheet 

The introduction of natural enemies (biological controls) has become a common method for dealing with certain pests. In several circumstances their use has now replaced conventional chemistry in certain conditions e.g. the use of Neoseiulus cucumeris for the control of western flower thrips (WFT) or nematodes for the control of vine weevil larvae.

To be effective, enough biological control agents must be released at the right time.   For a long time, there has been interest in finding methods to boost or support the released or naturally occurring enemies of pests within our crops. All native pests in UK crops will have naturally occurring predators or parasitoids so these methods allow ‘free’ reduction in pest numbers by supporting natural enemies in the nearby vicinity.

Some ‘free’ beneficial insects and mites include:

  • Lacewings
  • Hoverflies
  • Predatory thrips
  • Parasitoid wasps
  • Ladybirds
  • Predatory mites

However, ‘free’ methods may often have a hidden cost or disadvantage, for example they might:

  • Save money but require a greater time investment
  • Require additional plants to be grown that take up crop space
  • Even offer the potential for pests to develop

General steps to promoting beneficial natural enemies in your crops:

  • Avoid or reduce the use of broad-spectrum insecticides which kill a wide range of both pests and non-target species. This is a key step as the continued use of these persistent insecticides can damage beneficial populations for a prolonged period, whereas pest populations are often quicker to recover.
  • Only use a chemical insecticide if essential and choose a product with shorter persistence to beneficials or an alternative bioprotectant product if available.
  • Several biological control companies have online tools to help you check the harmfulness and persistence of pesticides to beneficials.
  • Spot sprays to pest ‘hotspots’ will limit their non-target effects.
  • Take care to avoid spray drift onto non cropping areas such as hedgerows.

 

This factsheet is designed to give some brief examples of available options for supporting natural enemies. Many factors need to be considered before using these methods and detailed advice should be sought if needed.

 

Download the factsheet: Promoting Beneficial Insects factsheet 



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