Intro: The Good Bugs

The Green Methods

To revisit the meaning of Green Methods, I have told you that the term is used to include the practices of biological pest control and integrated pest management (IPM), for the management of plant pests. I have chosen to collectively group these practices under the Green Methods moniker instead of the usual “IPM.” I do this as biological pest control or biocontrol makes up such a significant portion of the Green Methods that I don’t feel comfortable grouping all of these methods, however integrated, under the IPM abbreviation. IPM, I feel, encompasses the remaining, non-biocontrol practices — excluding the use of nasty, non-biorational chemicals which just don’t fit in — and is its own segment of the greater Green Methods. To further explain, let’s imagine a pie diagram. Now in your mind’s eye cut it in half: one half’s the biocontrol portion; the other half is IPM. The IPM half can be sliced down to separate physical controls from biorational sprays from traps from the other segments of which it is made. And the Green Methods pie’s biocontrol half can be further sliced as well to separate parasitoids from predators from nematodes — but that’s about it.

Biocontrols Aren’t Pesticides

Back in 1992 I separated these two segments of the Green Methods to discourage regulatory conflicts. I detailed this thinking to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and to the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture’s Division of Pesticides — from where the questions first arose. What I proposed to all parties was this: multicellular, non-mammalian organisms previously exempted from EPA regulation and which fall under the jurisdiction of the USDA should be classified as biocontrols and the remaining single-cellular organisms found in Bt products and the like, which are regulated by the EPA, but not by the USDA, should be classified as IPM goods-provided they do fit under the auspices of the Green Methods to begin with. All parties agreed that my logic was sound. Since that time I have kept up with this scheme of separation; it works.

The Bug Pages

Beneficial robber fly

This whole section deals with biocontrols. Parasitic wasps and nematodes, predatory flies and beetles and bugs, they’re all detailed here, under Biocontrols, an important part; a part which is at least three-quarters of the Green Methods pie. Most of the biocontrol agents and other good bugs detailed herein are broken down into the groups shown to address the following subjects:

Including common name(s) and Latin or scientific name(s).
Including known host/prey information.
Detailing basic biological information.
At least those specific to the use of said organism or group.
Because nothing’s perfect and we want to provide unbiased information.
So one can determine if the biocontrol agent(s) is/are “out there” and working.
Providing insights to special or unique characteristics specific to that organism or group or any unusual conditions necessary for the successful implementation .
Which details where said biocontrol agent(s) are best employed and their range of workable environments. Other critters in this section are provided only with general details.
Beyond the Page
For extended thinking (selected critters only).

Special Information

However, before delving headlong into the meat of the matter as it concerns the various organisms, I first want to address some special topics of interest which will make biocontrols a more viable option for you. The following are some general “rules” or guidelines which apply to nearly all biocontrol agents and are certainly worth considering?


Lots of consecutive little releases of biocontrol agents will nearly always work more effectively than making single inundative releases. This thinking goes all the way back to the Revolutionary War: Minutemen row one was firing as row two was cocking and aiming their muskets while row three was reloading their weapons. This resulted in a barrage of nearly constant fire leading to high enemy mortality. It was relentless and effective. Obviously in later wars, police actions and conflicts this strategy was unnecessary — even though “covering fire” is still used today — because the weapons used in more modern times could spew bullets at a must faster rate. Today’s machine guns and other automatic and semiautomatic weapons use cartridges so slow ramrod reloading is no longer needed. The whole idea of using stepped salvos was to keep up the pressure on the enemy because doing it otherwise was a slow business. And that is the exact same thing going on here in the biological pest control war. How revolutionary. Bear in mind that the stepping or frequency and interval of releases is detailed specifically in the Application Rates, however, when dealing with certain pests the window of opportunity for controlling said pests is very small so liberties must be taken to successfully employ a stepped release strategy.


Often in the pages which follow you see the words optimum conditions to address the temperature, humidity and such other requirements in which the good bugs will work best. These, as it states after each such phrase usage, “these are optimum conditions and not necessarily a prerequisite of successful implementation.” What follows then is the sentence: “Please note, however, significantly cooler or warmer temperatures and humidity fluctuations may hamper reproduction and development a certain degree.” The information on which this data is based applies mostly in the insectary environment. In other words, since insectaries rear these biocontrols for money, optimum conditions are very important to ensure the highest yield possible (just like you do when growing plants — you want maximum yield, plant size, etc.). However, optimum conditions aside, be aware that if your greenhouse, interiorscape, garden, orchard or field can support diverse plant life — I’m not talking about growing cacti or something like that — you should be able to use most biocontrol agents. Do pick organisms which are known to succeed in conditions closest to those which you can offer, but figure most conditions will work to some degree. Remember these are bugs which survive the often brutal conditions nature can dish out, so their survival mechanisms are in place and functional. Conditional requirements which force good bug mechanisms which will put them out of the game for a period of time-things like short day-lengths, etc., will be noted in Advisories when and where applicable.


Start early. In item one of this introduction I explained that biocontrols work slowly, like Minutemen with muskets. It is therefore imperative that not only does one want to apply biocontrol agents in bursts, but one must do so before a large outbreak occurs. This allows the biocontrol agents to acclimate, establish themselves and to mate if necessary before actually taking down the enemy. This is one of the reasons that scouting, however important in all facets of growing or caring for plants, is even more critical when one plans to use biocontrols as a primary offense. If you study our release rates, you’ll see that smaller numbers of biocontrol agents are recommended for prevention, low infestation management and maintenance situations. This makes biocontrol much more cost-effective in these scenarios. And saving money makes biocontrol efforts more doable and understandable as a primary pest control technology.


IPM is an abbreviation for integrated pest management. The key word in IPM is integrated; meaning using several approaches to get the job done. The same is true with every aspect of the Green Methods, including biocontrol. What I mean is this: Why rely on one good bug to do the whole job when you can use several? You might be asking why-assuming it’ll cost more. But cost is not the point necessarily when pests are conspiring to take you down and kick the s--t out of you. Using a certain combination of good bugs in unison may offer you better control in a more timely manner. For instance, let’s say one predator consumes the egg and larval stages, while another attacks the pupae. With this combination you’re not only breaking one link of the pests’ growth cycle, but three instead. It’s akin to the old one-two punch combination. Now throw in some of the other Green Methods methodology from the IPM side by employing traps, or barriers, or soft, biorational sprays. Voila, control. Is this stuff beginning to make sense or what?


Biocontrols are quite different from chemical products. Receive a bottle or case of SuperSpray at your company’s loading dock and you may leisurely pick it up a week later. Then you may set it down in the greenhouses’ head house for another week. Then someone can say, “What’s this?” and, swearing and mumbling, bring it over to the pesticide locker and put it into storage where they think it belongs. Then another week can pass and you can call the supplier and ask when the SuperSpray is supposed to arrive, having forgotten completely that it arrived two weeks ago. They can track the shipment and tell you that so-and-so signed for it a while ago. So you go to the loading dock and the shipping guy reminds you that you got that a while ago. Then it dawns on you that you did in fact get it and you left it in the head house. By the end of the third week you finally track down the person who put it in the pesticide locker. You go out to the locker, pick out the SuperSpray and apply it that day? three weeks later (and, perhaps, three weeks too late). Biocontrols are alive and you can’t get away with that type of big company inefficiency. (My apologies if I have detailed your company to a tee. That was not my intention-though if you do think I’m talking about you, get with the program, you should have sprayed that stuff when it came in, assuming you did need it in the first place.) With biocontrol agents you want to see to it that the bugs you ordered are properly stored or released by the end of that day or by the following morning at the latest, with exception to a few of them which do have storage capabilities.

Learn about the individual good guys by clicking on the menu “Green Methods Products. Have a certain pest in mind? Look it up from the menu Plant Pests to find out what’s out there willing to work for food. Oh, and good luck.