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***The best way to control pest species in any crop with biological solutions is to be proactive. The most successful systems create an environment with biological balance between biological agents and pests. Products should be used preventatively based on prior experience and early detection. Careful monitoring lowers costs and increases biological effectiveness. Pest species can reproduce extremely quickly when environmental factors are in their favor. If attempting to have a pesticide free crop then strict monitoring and a solid preventative plan is vital. In the last few decades there has been several Bio Program tactics that have become more and more popular. They can change based on the pest, crop, environment and grower preference.***



Parasitic wasps – Aphidius colemani – Banker System:

For many greenhouses aphids are a costly annual problem. To combat this many growers are turning to a preventative system that uses a harmless aphid species that lives on grass and not your crop. The “Banker Plant” is made from barley seed and is covered with grass aphids. These grass aphids can be stung and parasitized by Aphidius colemani. When stung the aphid becomes parasitized and becomes mummified. In 2 weeks a baby colemani wasp will emerge from the mummy and then begin searching throughout the greenhouse for both pollen (food) and aphids to sting. Having this banker system allows the wasps to build up in numbers over an extended period of time. With these higher numbers the colemani are able to cover more area and quickly attack new populations of other harmful aphid species in your crop before they become a problem. Another advantage to parasitic wasps is that adults will sting many aphids. Not only do these aphids die, but they also hatch a new wasp that will very quickly be able to sting aphids itself.

Parasitic Wasps of Aphids in order of popularity:

  • Aphidius colemani
  • Aphidius ervi
  • Aphidius matricariae


Parasitic Wasps are the best preventative system to combat aphid species. However many times of the year aphid species have a population explosion. This can happen in both a micro growing environment (inside a contained greenhouse) and also a macro growing environment (vented greenhouse or outdoors). When a population explosion or infestation occurs parasitic wasps may not control it by themselves. Control can be obtained by using predator insects; green lacewing, aphidoletes, ladybugs and adalia are the most commonly used aphid predators. One advantage of combining parasitoids and predators is that most predators do not eat aphids once they’ve been parasitized. This means they actually work together against a common pest aphid colony and can be much more effective. Predators also eat a lot per insect and most eat all life stages of the aphid whereas parasitoids only sting adults. Perhaps the biggest bonus to predators is that they can have a very immediate effect and you can more accurately target hot spots with larger predators. Predators of aphids usually are generalist predators and you get the added benefit of them eating other pest species.

Predators of Aphids in order of popularity:

  • Aphidoletes
  • Green Lacewing
  • Adalia
  • Ladybugs



Parasitic wasps:

Parasitic wasps are commonly used to preventatively combat whitefly, which is an annual pest for nearly are growers. The wasps are hung up in the crop on cards. These cards contain parasitized whitefly larvae. The wasps emerge and search out whitefly larvae. Parasitic wasps are especially effective because they not only sting many whitefly during their adult life, but also create a new wasp while killing the whitefly. However patience needs to be exercised with parasitic wasps because if preventative measures weren’t adequate, and an environmentally induced infestation occurred then it woud take 2 – 3 weeks before the development of the encarsia for the sting and oviposit to the hatching of a new wasp. Targeting heavier infestations with a higher release rate can help gain control. Encarsia Formosa are the most used whitefly parasitoid, but the species used may differ depending on whitefly species, environmental conditions or grower preference.

Parasitic Wasps of Whitefly in order of popularity:

  • Encarsia Formosa
  • Eretmocerus eremicus
  • Eretmocerus mundus
  • Aphelinus abdominalis

Predators – Dicyphus hesperus – Mullien Plant Sysytem:

Although parasitic wasps are very effective as a preventative system against whitefly there are times when it’s nearly impossible to control a population explosion just with parasitic wasps. During these periods it is vital to have a secondary control agent. Dicyphus is a whitefly predator which is rapidly increasing in popularity. They can be used by applying then directly to whitefly infestations. However, many growers are having success by producing their own population permanently inside their greenhouse. Dicyphus love a certain type of plant called a mullien plant. This plant grows naturally in many areas of Western North America and is the perfect host plant for the Dicyphus. They lay their eggs on it and spend most of their early life on this plant. Growers plant mullien plants among their crop and put dicyphus directly onto them when whitefly populations are low. They then feed the dicyphus esphestia (moth) eggs, and allow their population to increase. Once a dicyphus population is established on the mullien plants they can increase to very high numbers. The adults and larger nymphs will then be competing for food and travel throughout the crop adding another very important whitefly control agent. Dicyphus will not feed on parsitized whitefly allowing them to work with parasitic wasps to achieve biological balance. Dicyphus will also feed on many other pest species, but whitefly are their preferred food and they can eat an amazing amount of eggs and other stages. They are a valuable tool to many crop species that suffer whitefly problems. Delphastus is another whitefly predator that can be very effective in heavier infestations. It does not have a system for an ongoing preventative system though.

Predators of Aphids in order of popularity:

  • Dicyphus hesperus
  • Delphastus pusillus




Predator Mites:

Mites such as Amblyseius swirskii are yet another preventative biological agent for whitefly. Although mites don’t have the size or strength to feed on adult whitefly, they do love to eat whitefly eggs. Swirskii can be applied either loose in bran or in a little pouch called a sachet which is hung from the plant. Being able to specifically target problem areas is an advantage to using mites. Mites are unable to control whitefly but they are an effective preventative agent that works alongside parasitoids and predators.


Spider Mites

Predatory Mites – Persimilis:

The best way the fight mites, is with mites. The worldwide recognized leader for controlling spider mites is the predatory mite Phytoseiulus persimilis. Used both preventatively and to cure infestations, it is fast powerful and has an incredible appetite. The most successful tactics involve starting to apply preventative releases at the site of first detection and in areas that have history of infestations. Continue a gradual increase throughout spring months. Persimilis reproduction and overall health is best in humid conditions. The spring is very humid on average and can help build a solid population to combat mites in the summer months when its dryer and the conditions favor the Spider Mites. Persimilis also can be applied in heavy doses to combat bad infestations. Persimilis are harmed by very dry conditions and of course pesticides. When conditions are very favourable to persimilis and they have a large food source they can cure very bad infestations. Another predatory mite is Amblyseius californicus. It looks much like cucumeris or swirskii and is more effective in very dry conditions, although doesn’t eat nearly as much as persimilis. Persimilis is an essential tool in combating Spider Mites and other species on the West Coast.


Parasitic Wasps of Whitefly in order of popularity:

  • Encarsia Formosa
  • Eretmocerus eremicus
  • Eretmocerus mundus
  • Aphelinus abdominalis






While the first option for controlling spider mites is always persimilis. However, they don’t always maintain control and they don’t work as good when very dry. They also don’t work on all species of mites or work as good on certain crops. For these situations it becomes important to include predators such as Stethorus punctillum and Feltiella acarisuga. Both these predators are produced locally. Stethorus is a ladybeetle that feeds on all stages of spider mites. They can eat an incredible amount of eggs and adults. Adults are purchased and they start eating and laying eggs among the spider mite colony. The eggs hatch and a small larvae is born. This larva immediately starts feeding on spider mite eggs. When they have an abundance of food they grow at an amazing rate. Going from being smaller then adult spider mite to one hundred times the size in only a few days. Larva are sensitive to many types of plant hairs, so they don’t work on every crop. This is basically their only downfall. They are fast, powerful and won’t stop eating if there’s food. Some growers chose to release them preventatively as well, but when they have an abundance of spider mite, even to the point of webbing and severe damage, they are an extremely valuable tool. Feltiella is another valuable tool. It is a very capable flier and can find spider mite populations effectively in a large area. It lays its eggs among spider mite colonies. It larva devour large amounts of spider mite. Feltiella is difficult to target areas, so it is mainly used preventatively.



Predatory Mites:

Standard thrip control programs involve using predatory mites such as cucumeris and swirskii. These mites are very effective when used preventatively. Both can be bought as a bulk product which is then used to form piles at the bottom of each plant. These piles create a safer environment and contain predatory mite eggs which will hatch a move onto the plant in the search for food. If using the bulk method to preventively release these predatory mites isn’t preferred then sachets can be implemented. These sachets are basically little pouches that hang from the plant. It works in much the same way as the bulk method but some growers prefer it because they are very clean and easy to apply. However, these mites like humidity and in most environments it is more humid at the base of the plant and leads to a longer and more effective production system. However, if not applied into nice piles then the bulk method can be inefficient. Some growers also try and release bulk directly onto their crop in trouble areas. This method can cause problems however as the bran type material can stay on the crop and create mold issues. Application methods are decided by grower preference, type of crop and environmental conditions. Cucumeris it the North American standard for thrip control, although many growers like swirskii because of the added benefits of feeding on whitefly eggs.


The main thrip predator used in biological control systems is Orius insidiosus. It is a very good flier and very important preventative tool. Thrips are a notoriously difficult pest control, and they cause horrible damage to flowers and leaves. Orius actively seek out thrip colonies, crawling into hard to reach places like flowers, they are constantly looking for food and thrips are their favourite. They are one of the only biological agents with the ability to consume and destroy large amounts of adult thrips. This is important because there are multiple biological agents the can kill thrip nymphs and eggs. When other agents are taking care of these life stages it is vital to have orius destroying the adult life stage.


There are certain times when environmental conditions make it difficult to preventatively control thrips. Certain times of the year there is population explosions. When immediate action is needed it is often the job of the nematode Steinernema feltiae. SF Nematodes are a parasitic organism that enter host insect bodies and mass produce. Nematode kill rates are exceptional and SF nematodes are particularly good at destroying thrip nymph stages which originate in the soil. The nematodes are mixed in water and poured into the soil when watering. Nematodes are very effective and work very quickly. However they only destroy the life stage in the soil making it still very important to also have a mite and predator system in place.



Fungus Gnat Destroyer is a 1L tube containing 25,000 predatory Hypoaspis miles mites in a vermiculite carrier material. Apply this product evenly on the surface of the soil or in 5 ml (1 tsp) piles at the base of each infected plant. The soil should be moist but not too wet. It can take several weeks (depending on the introduction rate) until the Hypoaspis is established in the soil. In a greenhouse setting it is more effective to introduce this product at the beginning of the crop. For house plants, introduce this product at least twice a year (every six months) and when re-potting. If the population of fungus gnat is too high whenHypoaspis is introduced, the use of sticky cards and nematodes will help to decrease the number of the pest. Introduce these beneficials as soon as possible after receipt. If storage is necessary, keep them at 12–15 °C (54–59 °F).  1 unit/tube contains approximately 25,000 Hypoaspis miles mites and covers up to 100 medium plants.