Classical Biological Control

classical biological control

Biological control is the practice in agriculture and environmental stewardship of using the “natural enemies” of pests and invasives to control these unwanted plants or animals.1,2 These natural enemies may be predatory, parasitic, or infectious toward the target organism.1 For example, since ladybugs are the natural enemies (predators) of aphids, they can be used to biologically control aphids, mites, scales, and other pests.3

Classical biological control is a type of biological control in which a pest’s natural enemy is intentionally introduced into an area affected by that pest.1,2 Classical biological control is often uses when the pest isn’t native to the region. These non-native or “exotic” pests are particularly problematic because they have no natural enemies in the region to which they have been introduced. Having no natural enemies makes it easy for these pests to live and reproduce unimpeded.3

Classical biological control seeks to correct this imbalance by introducing these pests’ natural enemies into the environment. 1,2  For example, researchers have used the melaleuca snout weevil to control melaleuca, a plant that is invasive in Florida but native to Australia, New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands. In these regions, this weevil is the natural enemy of melaleuca and controls the growth of the plant. Through classical biological control, Florida researchers introduced the weevil to replicated that relationship and better control melaleuca in the state.4

Biological control can be preferable to chemical or mechanical control because, unlike other chemical or mechanical control, biological control is specific to the target organism. Whereas an herbicide may affect both an invasive and native plant, biological control can be designed to only affect the invasive species.5


  1. Anthony Shelton, “What is Biological Control?” Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, n.d., http://www.biocontrol.entomology.cornell.edu/what.php
  2. J. H. Frank and J. L. Gillett-Kaufman, Glossary of Expressions in Biological Control, IPM-143, Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 2015, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in673
  3. Hugh A. Smith and John L. Capinera, Natural Enemies and Biological Control, ENY-822, Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 2014, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in120
  4. J. P. Cuda, S. A. Wineriter, G. R. Buckingham, T. D. Center, and K. T. Gioeli, Classical Biological Control of Weeds with Insects: Melaleuca Weevil, ENY-823, Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 2015, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in172
  5. J. P. Cuda, J. C. Medal, W. A. Overholt, M. D. Vitorino, and D. H. Habeck, Classical Biological Control of Brazilian Peppertree (Schinus terebinthifolia) in Florida, ENY-820, Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 2013, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in114

Photo credits: Amy Stuart, UF/IFAS

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sgrenrock

sgrenrock

Web Writer at IFAS Communications

Sam is originally from California and has her BA in linguistics and MFA in poetry. She loves art, animals, culture, and learning about science.

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