Demonstrating Biological Control

You may recall that our grant from the USDA, Extension Service, IPM Program was to develop a biological control newsletter primarily for county and state-based Extension personnel. Of course, education is the priority of Extension. Because demonstrations are such important teaching tools, this issue of MBCN is composed of a series of short, relatively easy demonstrations of specific natural enemy activity and their use in biological control. These demonstrations can be used as teaching tools during field days or other education events. These are not "recipes" of how to conduct biological control on specific crops or specific landscape or garden situations.

You can use these demonstration projects in a variety of ways to develop educational programs. Each can be used as a focal point to discuss biological control of a specific pest, or more generally in a given pest management situation. Some of the demonstrations may require you to sample pest and natural enemy levels over a period of time; you can keep track of your data and present your findings as part of a field day or workshop. Other demonstrations are designed for maximum "audience participation"; these work particularly well in small group sessions. We have had to assume that you have some experience with the pests in at least one of the crops or situations presented. For example, if you have experience with corn, we assume you know what armyworm feeding damage looks like. Even if you are acquainted with the pests and natural enemies involved in a project, you may wish to do a "dry run" to familiarize yourself with the critters and the procedures outlined. Finally, remember that you will be working with living organisms and they may not always behave the way we predict. Unexpected results have meaning and educational importance also; try to understand why you see the outcomes of your projects, and the relevance to pest management.

Also included with this issue is a special section for 4-H leaders and others involved in youth education. We feel strongly that education about insects and their management should occur early, both for farm families as well as urban and rural youth not involved in agriculture. Children of all ages have a natural curiosity about the world around them, bugs included. The projects provided in the 4-H section are designed to teach children about the natural balances that occur among living organisms, and how these balances can be maintained in our fields, forests, landscape, and gardens through the actions of beneficial natural enemies. Please be sure to let your 4-H agent know about it - or others involved in youth education who might be interested.

Although this issue of MBCN was developed primarily for our Extension subscribers and other educators, we feel that the information can also be useful to pest managers. For example, if you are currently using insect-parasitic nematodes, or are considering their use, have you actually observed the outcome? If not, you might want to try the nematode demonstration.

Finally, as always, we want to provide you with a useful newsletter. We appreciate the feedback on our home gardening issue. Now we'd like to know what you think about this issue on demonstration projects. Let us know if it's useful. And let us know how your projects turned out and how your audiences responded.

- Dan Mahr, Project Director, University of Wisconsin-Madison

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