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What is Biological Pest Control?

Posted on October 30th, 2014 by Panther Pest Control Team
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Here at Panther Pest Control we like to use innocuous methods of eradication wherever possible. Always mindful of the harm some of the products can do to our environment we’re currently finding out all we can about biological pest control. And we thought we’d share what we’ve found with you, our valued customer.

biological-pest-control

Asian lady beetle used for biological pest control
Image by: gbohne

In answer to the title the definition of biological control is using other living organisms such as insects, mites, weed and plant diseases to control pests. Natural processes are what it relies on but it does require a little bit of human intervention. The organism will be the natural enemy of the pest you want to get rid of.

Types of Biological Pest Control

Basically there are three methods used to control pests biologically:

  1. IMPORTATION
    This biological method for controlling pests involves introducing the natural enemy of a particular pest to an area where they wouldn’t normally be found. First the source of the pests needs to be determined and then specially assessed, tested and quarantined natural enemies are released. The area will be regularly checked up on to ensure that it has become established and assess the long term effects its presence will have. This method of biological pest management is long lasting and not very expensive. And once in place, little more will need to be done to keep the infestation in check.
  2. AUGMENTATION
    Augmentation involves increasing the population of a natural enemy that is already there, but just needs a little help to become established and effective.
  3. CONSERVATION
    This involves changing the level and methods of cultivation to favour natural enemies and is otherwise known as habitat manipulation. One method of insect biological control is to provide more suitable habitats such as hedgerows so the beneficial insects can live and reproduce successfully. Even you can participate in this form of pest control. Leaving a layer of fallen leaves or mulch in your garden will provide food and shelter for worms and other small insects. This in turn will mean that hedgehogs and shrew mice have more food. And planting nectar rich plants also helps. Many more natural predators will come to your garden for their food.

However there is a word of caution necessary as human intervention often has many unwanted consequences. Biological pest management can have both positive and negative effects. There have been several examples of biological control methods that have gone wrong.

  • In Hawaii the mongoose was introduced for the biological control of rodents, particularly rats. The downside was it also preyed on native birds, being especially partial to their eggs more so than the rats.
  • In 1949 5 cats were brought to the Prince Edward Islands to catch the problem mice. 20 years later the cat population had increased to nearly 3.5 thousand, which was severely threatening local birds. A virus was introduced and together with a program of shooting the cats were completely eliminated by the 1990s.

These are just two examples of biological pest control methods that have gone a bit wrong. There are many advantages to biological control. There is no chemical effect or pollution of the environment and no adverse health effects. They can be used to successfully target one specific species while other animals or plants remain unharmed. The cost is minimal and the control species will maintain a stable population for many years. Without the need for any further human intervention.

Well hopefully that’s introduced you all to the idea of biological pest control but we’ve really only touched the surface of this innovative method of treatment. We’ll be keeping a careful eye on any future advances and may well introduce some of the methods to our pest control programme.