Early History of Biological Control
The recorded history of biological control may be considered as dating from Egyptian records of 4,000 years ago, where domestic cats were depicted as useful in rodent control.
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Insect Predation was recognized at an early date, but the significance of entomophagy and exploitation was lost except for a few early human populations in Asia where a sophisticated agriculture had developed. The Chinese citrus growers placed nests of predaceous ants, Oncophylla smaradina, in trees where the ants fed on foliage-feeding insects. Bamboo bridges were constructed to assist the ants in their movements from tree to tree. Date growers in Yemen went to North Africa to collect colonies of predaceous ants which they colonized in date groves to control various pests.
Insect Parasitoidism was not recognized until the turn of the 17th Century. The first record is attributed to the Italian, Aldrovandi (1602). He observed the cocoons of Apanteles glomeratus being attached to larvae of Pieris rapae (the imported cabbageworm). He incorrectly thought that the cocoons were insect eggs. Printed illustrations of parasitoids are found in Metamorphosis by J. Goedart (1662). He described "small flies" emerging from butterfly pupae. Antoni van Leeuwenhoek in 1700 (van Leeuwenhoek 1702) described the phenomenon of parasitoidism in insects. He drew a female parasitoid laying eggs in aphid hosts. Vallisnieri (1706) first correctly interpreted this host-parasitoid association and probably became the first to report the existence of parasitoids. Bodenheimer (1931), however, noted that several earlier entomologists recognized the essence of parasitoidism. Cestoni (1706) reported other parasitoids from eggs of cruciferous insects. He called aphids, "cabbage sheep," and their parasitoids, "wolf mosquitoes." Erasmus Darwin (1800) discussed the useful role of parasitoids and predators in regulating insect pests.
During the remainder of the 18th Century an ever increasing number of references to entomophagous and entomogenous organisms appeared in the literature, largely in the form of papers dealing with parasitoid biologies. Diseases of silkworms were recognized early in the 18th Century. De Reamur (1726) described and illustrated Cordyceps fungus infecting a noctuid larva.
By 1762 the first successful importation of an organism from one country to another for biological control took place with the introduction of the mynah bird from India to the island of Mauritius, for locust control.
Further development of modern biological control awaited the recognition of the fact that insect pest problems were population phenomena.