The Fundamentals of Insect Control

The fundamentals of insect control include monitoring, record-keeping, and understanding the target pest’s reproductive cycles. These factors are essential for determining when the problem is unacceptable and when chemical, biological, or mechanical controls are necessary.

Biological control involves intentionally manipulating natural enemies that suppress insect populations below damaging plant levels. These enemies can be predators, parasitoids, or pathogens.

Biological Control

Biological control uses living organisms or agents (natural enemies) to suppress pest populations and damage without using chemicals. Physical control tactics include using predators, parasites, and pathogens to manage pests.

Predators are insect organisms that kill other insects, while parasites, nematodes, and pathogens are microorganisms that attack and destroy pest populations. These organisms may be beneficial to other insects or not.

The most common form of biological control involves the introduction of what do insects eat to suppress a pest of foreign origin and cause problems in a field. This approach is called classical biological control.

The process of finding and introducing suitable natural enemies requires extensive research. The natural enemies must be adequately tested for pests and parasites, quarantined to ensure they are not transmitting disease, and then released in a location where the pest population is abundant. This release must be conducted at the appropriate time in the life cycle of the natural enemy and in a way that minimizes the disturbance.

Chemical Control

Chemical control uses pesticides that either kill or inhibit the development of pests. These include insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, rodenticides, avicides, and bactericides.

The use of chemicals has many advantages, such as the ability to quickly and effectively remove pests. However, they also have significant disadvantages:

  • They can pose a health risk to people and animals.
  • They can cause severe environmental damage.
  • They are often toxic to beneficial insects, such as pollinators or predatory natural enemies.
  • They can lead to the evolution of resistance by target and non-target pests.

Another essential advantage of chemical control is its low cost, especially compared to biological and physical methods. In addition, the efficiency of chemicals is very high in most cases.

Physical Control

Insect control relies on the prevention and suppression of pest populations. This is achieved through several methods, including monitoring and record-keeping, hand-picking, barriers, traps, vacuuming, and tillage to disrupt breeding.

The choice of these control practices will depend on the region, crop, degree of the infestation, and soil condition. Weeds are controlled through various methods, including tillage, removal by hand, grazing, and mowing.

Some weeds may also be destroyed through fire, tillage, and overwintering. These techniques are used against weed seedlings, perennial weeds, and insect pests such as squash borers, cucumber earworms, and pickle worms.

Physical or mechanical control is a broad category that includes traps, barriers, and heat-killing for storage pests. It also provides for pressure-treated wood to protect against some wood-damaging insects and fungi. It can also have netting and metal shields to keep birds from damaging fruit crops or roosting in buildings.

Economical Control

Across all sectors of industry and agriculture, insect populations can be economically damaging. Insects damage plants and animals, kill or injure workers, and cause illness and disease.

Economic losses from pests vary but are usually proportional to their density. High density increases the cost of control.

A fundamental principle of insect control is that the most effective management of pests requires an accurate measurement of population density and distribution. This is accomplished through sampling strategies.

There are many ways to sample, and different techniques may be better for a particular situation. However, only some approaches can provide an ideal measure of insect population density and distribution.

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