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2021 Guidelines for Purchasing and Using Commercial Natural Enemies and Biopesticides in North America

Lynn M. LeBeck and Norman C. Leppla

This guide provides assistance in selecting, purchasing and using commercially available natural enemies and biopesticides for managing accurately diagnosed pest problems. It therefore applies only to situations in which the cause of a pest problem is known and a biological control solution is sought. To choose a commercial natural enemy product, first use Table 1 to locate the habitat of your plant or animal pest and identify the insect or mite. Then, consider using some of the listed types of natural enemies (parasitic nematodes, predatory mites, predatory insects, and parasitic wasps) and biopesticides available to manage these pests. Products often can be used in combination when there is more than one pest problem, and sometimes a product will manage a pest for which it was not intended. The reference numbers correspond with the numbered scientific names of natural enemies in Tables 2–5. The natural enemy source companies identified randomly in Tables 2–5 are listed in Table 6, along with their websites. Table 7 provides scientific names for some of the most common microbial insecticides and fungicides that can be used to manage many types of pests alone or, if compatible, in combination with insect and mite natural enemies. The title to Table 7 includes a link to the searchable IR-4 Biopesticide and Organic Database for Integrated Pest Management that lists products, sources, and applications. Member practitioners of the Association of Natural Biocontrol Producers shown in Table 8 provide consulting and other support services that are increasingly important for large-scale implementation of biological control. Sources of information on obtaining and using commercial natural enemies follow in the next section.

 

 

Biological control companies typically provide customer service to assure that their products are used appropriately. Information they supply includes the availability and cost of natural enemies and biopesticides, descriptions of individual target pests and their biology, and recommendations for applying and evaluating their products. Product instructions usually indicate the habitats and seasons in which the pests are encountered, developmental stages that are susceptible to parasitism or predation, and relevant behavior of the natural enemies, e.g., how far they move and how many pests they can parasitize or consume. Companies included in the detailed species lists (Tables 2–5) are members of the Association of Natural Biocontrol Producers (ANBP). Producers and distributors belonging to ANBP are preferred because they adhere to a quality assurance policy and code of ethics for the industry and promote research and education on the use of natural enemies. Not listed are most garden centers, companies with very limited geographic markets or product lines, suppliers without comprehensive websites, governmental and other non-commercial producers, so-called big-box stores, and outlets for which information was difficult to find or use.

It is essential to determine that the purchased living organisms are healthy and able to survive long enough to provide biological control in the pest habitat. Suppliers usually provide high-quality natural enemy products but are unable to control conditions during shipment and handling. Temperature extremes, condensation from ice packs, restricted oxygen supply, high organism densities, and long shipping and storage times are some of the factors that can adversely affect natural enemy quality. Therefore, customers should open packages immediately on arrival to provide a better environment for the organisms and detect any potential problems. Packages at least should be inspected for condensation or a fermenting smell, and the number of living and dead organisms should be estimated. If pupae or parasitized host organisms are shipped, the number of emerging adults should be recorded; a sex ratio of at least 40%–45% females is expected. Customers are advised to make sure that most eggs hatch or adults are able to move, if products are shipped in these stages of development. Notes should be made on the product name, company batch number, date received, packaging type and condition, number of organisms in the package, and any other pertinent observations on the appearance and performance of the product. After completing the general check, customers can perform additional quality assurance testing, recording the test methods, number of organisms tested and date, or use the products as soon as possible. An easy-to-use guide, Grower Guide: Quality Assurance of Biocontrol Products, is available to help customers assess the quality of natural enemies received from suppliers(see Buitenhuis 2014 in Sources of Information). The supplier should be notified immediately if there is a problem with the products.

Customers who use biological control products generally want to be directly involved in solving their pest problems. This involvement is essential because products must first be selected and deployed according to general instructions and subsequently evaluated for site-specific effectiveness. It may be necessary to try different products or application procedures, or to modify the environment in ways that enhance the impact of natural enemies. This may involve changing how plants are grown or adding food, companion plants and refuges for natural enemies. The impacts of commercial natural enemies can be limited to the stage that is released or be long-term if they reproduce and become established. Typically, several pests are present, and if some must be managed with pesticides, it is necessary to know which pesticides are compatible with the natural enemies. Other considerations are how to release the natural enemies and in what developmental stages. They can be introduced, for example, on special plants with non-pest hosts (so called "banker plants") added as eggs, or allowed to fly from release containers. These kinds of considerations may be addressed in instructions from the source companies or gleaned from the references in this guide.

Commercial biological control products described in this guide have been thoroughly tested for effectiveness and given federal and state approval to assure that they can be released into the environment safely. The products are marketed directly by producers or provided by suppliers after obtaining the necessary shipping permits for natural enemies or EPA registrations for biopesticides. Only products (nematodes, mites, and insects) that are insectary-reared, as opposed to field-collected (e.g., lady beetles), and biopesticides that are considered useful and that are available in North America are included. The guide is updated periodically because some products may be discontinued and new ones may become available. ANBP membership companies are contacted directly for their updated information. Specialized products, such as those used for weed management, have been excluded from the guide.

Sources of Information on Obtaining and Using Commercial Natural Enemies and Biopesticides

Association of Natural Biocontrol Producers (ANBP) Website (http://www.anbp.org). [This is a global commercial biological control organization with members primarily in North America. The website lists producers, distributors, practitioners, and contributing members. Most of the producers and distributors list their products and provide instructions for their use.]

Buitenhuis, R. 2014. Grower Guide: Quality Assurance of Biocontrol Products. Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, Ontario, Canada (https://www.vinelandresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Grower-Guide.pdf) [Procedures are provided for assessing the quality of 28 commercial natural enemies.

Copping, L. G. 2001. The Biopesticide Manual. British Crop Protection Council, 2nd edition. Farnham, UK. 528 p. [This book contains a comprehensive listing and technical descriptions of biopesticides.]

Electronic Data Information Source (EDIS) website (https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu). [The EDIS website is a comprehensive, single-source repository of all current UF/IFAS numbered peer-reviewed publications. The database is searchable by topic, e.g., agriculture or lawn and garden, and by key words.]

Featured Creatures website (http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures). [This is a set of in-depth profiles of insects, nematodes, arachnids and other organisms. The database is searchable by common name, scientific name, crop or habitat, higher classification, and recent additions.]

Flint, M. L., S. H. Dreistadt and J. K. Clark. 1998. Natural Enemies Handbook. University of California Integrated Pest Management Project. University of California Press, Los Angeles. 154 p. [This book can be used to identify and use many of the most common natural enemies. It contains a considerable amount of information about biological control, including the toxicity to natural enemies of selected insecticides and acaracides.]

Gerson, U., R. L. Smiley and R. Ochoa. 2003. Mites (Acari) for Pest Control. Wiley-Blackwell. 560 p. [This book describes 34 acarine families that include mites useful for controlling pest mites, insects, nematodes, and weeds. It also contains information on using the mites.]

Hajek, A. E., and J. Eilenberg. 2018. Natural Enemies: An Introduction to Biological Control, 2nd edition. Cambridge University Press. 452 p. [This book describes the diversity of organisms used in biological control.]

Hoffman, M. P., and A. C. Frodsham. 1993. Natural Enemies of Vegetable Insect Pests. Cornell Cooperative Extension, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. 63 p. [This book facilitates identification of the major parasites and predators of insect pests of vegetables. It also contains information on entomopathogenic nematodes and microbial insecticides.]

Hoy, M. A. 2011. Agricultural Acarology, Introduction to Integrated Mite Management. CRC Press. 430 p. [This book contains a general introduction to acarology, including the use of mites for biological control.]

International Biocontrol Manufacturers Association (IBMA) website (https://www.ibma-global.org/). [This is a global commercial biological control organization with members primarily in Europe. It has an Invertebrate Biocontrol Agents (IBCA) Professional Group for producers of macroorganisms (insects, mites and entomopathogenic nematodes).]

International Organization for Biological Control (IOBC) website (https://www.iobc-global.org/). [IOBC promotes the development of biological control and its application in integrated pest management. It has biological control working groups and publications.]

Interregional Research Project No. 4 (IR-4) website (https://www.ir4project.org). [IR-4 maintains a Biopesticide and Organic Database for Integrated Pest Management (http://ir4app.rutgers.edu/biopestPub/labelDb.aspx). Search categories include commercial crops, commercial turf and ornamentals, residential food crops, residential turf and ornamentals, pest problems (insects, diseases, weeds, nematodes, and animals), plant growth regulators, and states.]

Lacey, L. 2016. Microbial control of insect and mite pests, from theory to practice. Academic Press. 482 p. (https://www.elsevier.com/books/microbial-control-of-insect-and-mite-pests/lacey/978-0-12-803527-6). [This book describes microbial control agents and their implementation in a variety of crops, along with other applications.]

Malais, M. H. and W. J. Ravensberg. 2003. Knowing and Recognizing (Revised Edition). Koppert Biological Systems. 443 p. (https://www.koppertus.com/knowing-recognizing.). [The Koppert Biological Systems website also has information on the toxicity of selected pesticides to natural enemies.]

Acknowledgments

The authors thank Dr. Marshall W. Johnson (University of California, Riverside) for a thorough review of the manuscript and Dr. John L. Capinera (University of Florida) for guidance on its structure. Carol S. Glenister (IPM Laboratories) provided an expert review as a producer and supplier of natural enemies. The guide also was reviewed by the Board of Directors of the Association of Natural Biocontrol Producers. This guide was developed in response to requests for assistance in purchasing and using commercial natural enemies.

Tables

Table 1. 

Habitats of plant or animal pests in North America, typical pests, type of commercial natural enemies available to manage each pest, and species reference number.

Table 2. 

Parasitic nematodes. Numbered biological control products [family, genus and species], some (target pests) and source companies.

Table 3. 

Predatory mites. Numbered biological control products [family, genus and species], some (target pests) and source companies.

Table 4. 

Predatory insects. Numbered biological control products [family, genus and species], some target pests and source companies.

Table 5. 

Parasitic wasps. Numbered biological control products [family, genus and species], some (target pests) and source companies.

Table 6. 

Member companies of the Association of Natural Biocontrol Producers that market nematodes, mites, and insects for pest management in North America. Products available from these companies are listed in Tables 2–5. For companies that produce or sell biopesticides, visit the IR-4 Biopesticide and Organic Database for Integrated Pest Management (http://ir4app.rutgers.edu/biopestPub/labelDb.aspx).

Table 7. 

Biopesticides. Common microbial insecticide and fungicide active ingredients and some target pests. The searchable IR-4 Project Biopesticide and Organic Database for Integrated Pest Management lists the products, sources, and applications for biopesticides (http://ir4app.rutgers.edu/biopestPub/labelDb.aspx).

Table 8. 

Association of Natural Biocontrol Producers practitioners that provide support services for biological control.

 

 

Publication #IPM-146

Date: 3/10/2021

Management

About this Publication

This document is IPM-146 (originally titled Guidelines for Purchasing and Using Commercial Natural Enemies and Biopesticides in Florida and Other States, published July 2010 by Norman C. Leppla, professor, and Kenneth L. Johnson II, USDA, NIFA, National Needs Fellow, IPM Florida), one of a series of the Entomology and Nematology Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date July 2010. Revised August 2015 and Februrary 2021. Visit the EDIS website at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu for the currently supported version of this publication.

About the Authors

Lynn M. LeBeck, executive director, Association of Natural Biocontrol Producers (ANBP); and Norman C. Leppla, professor and integrated pest management program director, Entomology and Nematology Department; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

Contacts

  • Norman Leppla