Introducing Midwest Biological Control News

At a recent biological control workshop, I asked my dinner companions their impression of the meeting so far. The comments poured out: "I had no idea there was so much information on biological control out there." . . . "I must get twenty calls a year asking if releasing lady beetles really works. Now I know what to tell them" . . . "I wish we could clone (morning speaker) and bring her to our county." . . . "We tried Trichogramma on our farm five years ago, but now I know we were probably releasing the wrong species." . . . "We [producers] are willing to accept any information, not just proven recommendations. Give us the information and let us experiment with it."

From this and similar conversations, the idea for a regional biological control newsletter was born. There is a tremendous amount of information on biological control, "out there." The challenge is getting the information from, "out there," into the hands of those who can apply it. Biological control is not always simple! Frequently the practices cannot be boiled down into convenient recommendations. The purpose of Midwest Biological Control News is to provide you -- extension agents, crop consultants, landscape managers and crop producers -- with information you can use to help incorporate biological control solutions into pest management systems.

To serve your needs, we need to hear from you! What types of information do you need? What successes/failures have you had with biological control? What specific topics would you like to see addressed in Midwest Biological Control News? We will incorporate your suggestions into future issues. Your input is critical for developing Midwest Biological Control News into a resource that fits your needs. Send your comments and contributions to the Editor whose address is on page 8.

- Doug Landis, Michigan State University

Why Have a Biological Control Newsletter?

In recent years there has been rapidly increasing interest in alternatives to conventional insecticide use. Biological control is an often-mentioned alternative. As American agriculture moves from a largely chemically-based pest management strategy to one that is more biologically based, pest managers are going to require a different type of knowledge.

With close to 50 years of experience using modern pesticides, there is a wealth of information on how these should be used to be safe and effective. This type of information is readily available to most producers, crop consultants, extension personnel, and others responsible for pest management decisions.

Biological control also has a long history; it was over 100 years ago that the vedalia beetle was introduced to fight cottony cushion scale in California. During this period there has been much research and practical experience using beneficial natural enemies to fight pests. There are literally thousands of articles in technical journals, and dozens of books devoted to the subject of biological control. However, because of our emphasis on pesticides, biological control has not been widely practiced, and there hasn't been a great demand for the practical types of information such as that which is so readily available for pesticide use.

Biological control, to be successful, will require that the pest manager have a good working knowledge of all the beneficial organisms that help control pests. Further, we must also understand the different approaches to biological control, and the specific tactics that can be applied to control specific pests. So, where is this information, and how will we make it available?

The colleges of agriculture at the Land Grant universities in the Midwest are firmly dedicated to increasing awareness about biological control, and providing the information that will allow pest managers to adopt biological control practices. Through research projects new biological control methods are being developed. Through extension educational programs, these new methods will be related to you, the pest manager. The goal of Midwest Biological Control News is to provide you with practical biological control information that you can use in your pest management programs.

This is your newsletter. Let us know what you think.

- Dan Mahr, Project Director University of Wisconsin - Madison

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