Word of the Day: Biocontrol

Above: Ladybugs are often associated with biocontrol because they eat aphids. UF/IFAS photo by Tyler Jones.

The term biocontrol is short for biological control. Biological control is a way of controlling pests with their natural enemies. A pest’s natural enemies are organisms that typically reduce the number of these pest in its natural environment.

Natural enemies affect pests in various ways. Some natural enemies are parasites or parasitoids of pests, while others eat pests, infect them with pathogens that can lead to disease or compete with them for the same food or habitat. Natural enemies are also sometimes called beneficial insects.

When a pest appears outside of its homeland, it often doesn’t have to deal with these natural enemies, making it harder to control this pest. In classical biological control, natural enemies from a pest’s place of origin are imported into the new environment.

There a few strategies to increase the number of natural enemies. One method, called augmentation, is to raise a large number of beneficial insects in the lab and then introduce them into an area where pests are present. Ladybugs and lacewings are two natural enemies raised and used in this way.

Another method, called conservation biocontrol, changes an environment to make it friendlier to beneficial insects. Conservation biocontrol is all about attracting or keeping beneficial insects. For example, some beneficial insects rely on plants for food, so adding these plants to an environment can encourage beneficial insects to stick around.

Learn more about biocontrol at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_biological_control.