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Background information

Biological control

Biological control is usually defined as the use of natural enemies to suppress populations of pests such as insects and weeds. In new areas or countries, pests often arrive without the suite of natural enemies which would normally keep then in check in their natural range. Consequently they sometimes undergo periods of outbreak before existing predators, parasitoids or diseases adapt to them, and before pest management strategies, including biological control can be developed.

Biological control has a long history dating back to 200 A.D. when the Chinese used natural enemies to control insect pests. Ants were used (and nests of ants sold) to control citrus insect pests, and ants were also used in 1200 A.D. in Yemen for control of date palm pests by moving nests from the wild and placing them in the trees. At about the same time ladybird beetles were recognised as being useful for control of aphids and scale insects. For more on the history of biological control see Simmonds et al. (1976). In New Zealand the earliest biological control agent introduction was Coccinella undecimpunctata, a coccinellid predator released in 1874 to attack aphids (Cameron et al. 1993).

Biological control can be used for pest management in a number of ways:


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