What Is Biocontrol?

Biological control, or Biocontrol for short, is the practice of rearing and releasing natural enemies (predators and parasites) that seek out and destroy other insects and mites that are considered pests. Natural enemies are perfectly safe to humans and do not harm the environment. They simply reestablish the natural balance of nature. Keep in mind, however, that biocontrol does not completely eradicate pests; it keeps them at low levels. The objective of biocontrol, is to keep pest levels low enough to produce a successful crop. 

The links below introduce several aspects of biocontrol. Early history reviews some of the early efforts to control pests. The beneficial insect profiles provide detailed information on a number of beneficial insects and mites. The database is a major recource for all kinds on information on biocontrol.

UC Riverside Database on Biocontrol

A major goal of ANBP involves familiarizing the public with the concept of biological control and the practical use of natural enemies to reduce the damage caused by pests.

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.

[For a more complete outline of the history of biological control, visit this website]. 

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.

Where can I buy beneficials?

Looking to buy beneficial insects, mites, or nematodes for biological control (biocontrol)? See a list of our current members and get links to their websites.

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