Biological Pest Control (04:37)
Chemical pesticides have proven harmful to the environment and to human health. Insects may provide a viable alternative. Brazilian agronomist Diogo Rodrigues Carvalho is pioneering the use of parasitic wasps that destroy sugarcane borers by laying eggs inside their eggs.
Insect Rivalries (04:01)
In the 1980s, Hans Herran pioneered a biological control program to protect cassava crops from a pesticide resistant mealy bug in Nigeria. Wasps have saved an estimated 20 million people from starvation. Learn about biological control principles and hear examples.
In Valbonne, researchers isolate female parasitic Trichogramma wasps to help wine growers attack predatory moths. The company has over 700 species to test for effectiveness.
Biological Control History (03:19)
Predatory insects have been used to protect citrus orchards in ancient China and in 19th century California. In the 1940s, chemical pesticide use prevailed but biological control research resumed in the 1960s. French tomato and corn farmers now use parasitic wasps.
Becoming Pests (03:33)
The transformation of forests into arable land creates new crop predators. Sesamia cretica larvae attack farmed maize in France, but continue feeding on wild maize in Kenya. Scientists have identified a foraging gene responsible for crop adaptation.
Ventenata dubia (06:37)
Rene Sforza and Dorothy Maguire study wiregrass, a European species toxic to cattle that has invaded the Western U.S. Near Frankfurt, they collect soil and insect samples to study its environmental conditions and test for possible natural enemies.
Asian Harlequin Lady Beetle (03:34)
In the 1980s, the Harmonia axyridis was imported into the U.S. to fight aphids. It also ate indigenous ladybugs and invaded human habitats, but most biological control projects have been effective. Hover fly larvae eat aphids feeding on apple trees.
Biological Control by Increase (04:25)
An airplane drops native Trichogramma wasp eggs on a sugarcane plantation to control sugarcane borer larvae. Manager Sheryl Ivia Hauff believes they are more sustainable than chemical pesticides. However, wasps do not travel to other fields and must be replenished.
Producing Trichogramma Wasp Eggs (02:29)
A biological control company uses eggs from the common flour moth, Anagasta kuehniella, to imitate sugarcane borer eggs for Trichogramma wasps to parasitize.
Bacteria, viruses and fungi kill pests via infection. The Cotesia wasp injects eggs into the Sesamia cretica larvae. It carries a virus suppressing the larvae's immune system; Cotesia larvae kill their hosts in two weeks.
Codling Moth Evolution (04:35)
Pests constantly adapt defenses; codling moth larvae have become resistant to biopesticide. Myriam Siegwart studies how they evolve to resist the granulosis virus to lengthen biopesticide lifespan; they appear to block its replication at a cellular level.
Alternative Agricultural Models (04:09)
Pests resistant to biopesticides are a signal to abandon intensive farming. Several states in India are transitioning from chemical to biological control methods. The Center for Sustainable Agriculture promotes ecosystem restoration and habitats for predatory insects like green lacewings.
Ecological Farming (03:25)
Farms in India combine traditional methods and ecological principles to promote plant and insect diversity. Conservation biological control requires farmer vigilance. Currently, only 5% of global farmland uses bioprotection but there is public pressure to find alternatives to chemical agricultural products.
Credits: Insects To The Rescue (00:29)
Credits: Insects To The Rescue
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