An introduction to biocontrol

Adult ladybugs are a commonly-recognized biocontrol agent, but there’s so much more to biocontrol!

Biocontrol can be an important part of an integrated pest management strategy (learn more about “IPM in a Nutshell”). For example, biocontrol organisms that support plant health can make them less susceptible to the pests that damage them (prevention). If something needs to be applied to reduce pest populations (or keep them low), biocontrol products tend to be less harmful to other critters or people than chemical pesticides (choosing a pest management strategy with low environmental impact).

In the images at the top of this blog, you can see some examples of biocontrol. From left to right…

Syrphid flies are often seen foraging for pollen and nectar on flowers, but immature syrphid flies (larvae; not pictured) also eat pest insects. (Photo credit: Ken Wise)

Some bacteria produce compounds that slow the growth of pest fungi, or even kill them. (Photo credit: Carly Summers)

Many different species of parasitic wasps use their stingers to lay eggs inside pest insects (which is what happened to this aphid). The egg hatches, and the developing wasp eats the pest from the inside out, eventually leaving through the exit hole seen in this picture. (Photo credit: Ken Wise)

Some stink bugs are pests, while other stink bugs (like this one) are predators of pests. (Photo credit: Ken Wise)

Adult ladybugs are more easily-recognized than immature ladybugs (larvae), like the one that is eating aphids in this picture. (Photo credit: Ken Wise)

In the background is a picture taken under the microscope of nematodes (tiny worms). Some nematode species seek out and enter soil-dwelling pest insects, carrying bacteria that will kill the insect. (Photo credit: Maxwell Helmberger)

Posts on this blog will explain how biocontrol is already contributing to IPM in New York, and how its use in pest management could be improved. The information is posted by Amara Dunn, Biocontrol Specialist with the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program. If you have questions about biocontrol, you can contact Amara by email (, call her office (315-787-2206), or leave a comment on this blog.

5 thoughts on “An introduction to biocontrol”

  1. Great blog! And great name – Biocontrol Bytes! Nice photos, too. I’ve always wondered what Nematodes looked like. Looking forward to more posts.

    1. Well, admittedly this is a bit of an over simplification. Parasitoid wasps can’t sting; the part of their body that would have been a stinger lays eggs in its prey, instead. Wasps that do sting do not lay eggs inside of or on their prey. But many stinging wasps are still great predators, using the insects they catch to feed their young.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *