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Biological Pest Control

Author: Dr Kelvin Klemm

( Article Type: Explanation )

Biological pest control is man’s use of a specifically chosen living organism to control a particular pest. The chosen organism may be a predator, parasite or disease, which will attack the harmful insect. A complete biological control programme is a form of manipulating nature to obtain a desired effect, which will be least harmful to beneficial insects, but will attack the target insect almost like a ‘living insecticide’.

Biological control methods can be used as part of an overall integrated pest management programme. Biological control can be more economical than some pesticides, and it may have less legal and environmental implications than chemical insecticides.

Unlike most insecticides, biological controls are very specific for a particular pest. Other helpful insects and animals are unaffected and there is less danger of impact on water quality. However, some disadvantages of biological controls are that they usually need more intensive management and planning than pesticide use, and usually require more education and training on the part of the implementation team. Successful use of biological control requires a significant understanding of the biology of both the pest and its enemies. Another drawback is that the results of using biological control are not as dramatic or quick as using pesticides.

The three main approaches to biological control are:

  1. Classical biological control, which is the importation of an enemy of the pest. Simply it is a case of travelling to the country of origin of the pest and finding a natural enemy.
  2. The Augmentation approach is a case of increasing the population of a natural enemy of a pest. This can be done by breeding them in a laboratory, or by making the natural environment more favourable to the natural enemy.
  3. The Conservation approach is the process of cultivating the natural enemies of the pest by identifying any factors that limit their effectiveness, and then controlling them or enhancing them to optimise their ability to attack the pest.