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Biological Control

Lady beetle larvae eating Wooly apple aphid. Credit: C. Baker, WSU Entomology
Lady beetle larvae eating Wooly apple aphid. Credit: C. Baker, WSU Entomology

WSU has an active research group looking at ways to enhance orchard biological control. Biological Control (AKA Biocontrol) is a method of controlling pests through the use of natural enemies (NE’s). A good example of this is using lady beetles to help control aphids. Biocontrol can be used in concert with chemical control strategies if care is taken with application timing and product selection. The Enhancing Western Orchard Biological Control SCRI project focused on ways to improve the stability of IPM programs in apple, pear, and walnut orchards, by enhancing biological control. The project objectives were multi-pronged. The first was to look at acute and sublethal effects of various commonly used orchard pesticides to gauge the level of impact on various natural enemies. The second was to develop phenology models of some of the most important natural enemies ignored to predict when they were active in the orchards. The third was to develop and evaluate lures for monitoring natural enemy populations. The fourth was to develop a gut content analysis technique to determine what generalist predators were feeding on in orchards.  The fifth was to look at the economics of utilizing biocontrol strategies. Then finally, the last objective was to determine the best mode of information dissemination to stakeholders, i.e., the best way to deliver research results in an outreach program. Full details about the project can be found at its dedicated website.  Once the project completed, the complementary USDA/WSDA block grant project was undertaken to begin the prescribed outreach program. This project is still ongoing.

Primary WSU Resources

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The Enhancing Western Orchard Biological Control website is an excellent primary resource for research results, NE identification, articles (both trade and technical), pesticide effects, videos and more. Orchard Pest Management Online has a collection of both pest and natural enemy descriptions. The descriptions include information about their biology, behavior and phenology. The WSU Crop Protection Guide doesn’t only have control recommendations. This guide also includes basic information about concepts of pest integrated pest management, resistance management and principles of biological control.

Selected Resources for Biological Control

Lures for Natural Enemies
Pesticide Effects on NE’s
Natural Enemy Phenology Models
Washington State University