biological control


Oxynoe olivacea - a sea slug with many skills

Oxynoe olivacea (Sacoglossa - Oxynoidae) is a species of shelled sacoglossan (sea slug) endemic to the Mediterranean Sea, which lives in close association with the invasive seaweed Caulerpa taxifolia, from which it feeds, and sequesters chloroplasts and secondary metabolites (kleptoplasty).

For the last three decades, the Mediterranean Sea has been under invasion of two exotic algae species, Caulerpa taxifolia and Caulerpa racemosaC. taxifolia was introduced to the Mediterranean due to the accidental release of it from a public aquarium in Monaco.

Due to the specialization of its diet, Oxynoe olivacea has been studied as potential biological control agent against Caulerpa taxifolia. However, it has been found that this could be only possible through an artificial enhancement of their populations after cultivation of the veligers and release of juveniles during the winter season, because these sacoglossan have low feeding rates and their larvae are planktonic.

Furthermore, the  major secondary metabolite of the alga is caulerpenyne, a toxic substance with grazing deterrent properties towards herbivorous fish. However, Oxynoe olivacea is able to eat the Caulerpa and even to sequester the toxic component. Experiments with this sacoglossan have demonstrated that the mollusk is also able to biotransform caulerpenyne into more active derivatives, and use them in their own defense.

Reference: [1] - [2] - [3] - [4] - [5] - [6] - [7]

Photo credit: ©Antoni López-Arenas | Locality: Badia dels Alfacs, Sant Carles de la Ràpita, Catalonia, Spain (2011) | [Top] - [Bottom]

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Release the wasps! (no, really, release the wasps) Part I

Today, I released a bunch of wasps into a forest in Wisconsin…

Now tell me what sort of image does that conjure up in your head?

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Well, if you’re of my generation (mid-twenties), it might consist of something looking like the image on the left (Beedrill, for those of you not baptized into the church of Pokemon as children, as I was), multiplied into a swarm of sorts, as the bottom image shows.  While this prospect may seem terrifying/exciting/(insert adjective here), I’m going to break it down for you, I did not release a swarm of Beedrill (is that the plural? Beedrill…Beedrills…?  I know, I’m too tangentially worried about Pokemon.) into a nearby forest.  I apologize to any enthusiast who was hoping his or her dream may have come true.  Sorry.

To move back in the direction of more seriousness, you may wonder why I felt it necessary to go into that whole bit about the Beedrill and wanting to catch all the Pokemon.  I must digress.  Many of our perceptions are shaped by the things in which we most commonly associate them.  When I mentioned “wasps,” you certainly may have thought about Beedrill, or “killer” bees (even though they aren’t wasps), or a recent SyFy original movie.  I wish to dispel that notion and enlighten you a little bit (if I may).

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 Although we are correct when we call this (Paper wasps, Polistes spp.), and this (Digger wasp, Philanthus sp.), and this (Sapygid wasp, Eusapyga verticalis), wasps, they are by far the “only” wasps.  In fact, the family Braconidae is one of the largest, most highly diverse, family of wasps, with estimates from 50,000 to 150,000 species living today.  One may be incredulous at such a claim, but it is in fact true.  Many of these wasps, especially those that parasitize other organisms, can be very cryptic, or difficult to discern against the background of the outdoors.  Additionally those that are parasitic (termed, parasitoids), spend the bulk of their life cycles inside other organisms, hiding them from only those that know where to look.

If you’re still with me at this point, you’ll notice I’ve highlighted a few things:

(1) I released wasps into a Wisconsin forest

(2) Wasps are a diverse group and

(3) We should not immediately associate the term “wasp” with something that is negative to, or will attack humans

Now that I’ve gotten you (hopefully) to reassess your predisposition to cringe (or run and hide), when you hear someone say, “wasp” (and if you already knew all of this stuff, pat yourself on the back and forgive my slow synthesis), I’d like to introduce you the two wasps that I released into the forest today.

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The first image on the right is of Spathius agrili, a parasitoid of the Emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) from China.  Although the picture may make it seem rather large and menacing, it’s actually quite small and docile.  To get a good (general) comparison of the size, take one of your hands and look at your pinky nail; the wasp is slightly smaller than that.  This wasp, being a parasitioid has two goals in life (if I may be so bold and anthropomorphize it): first, to mate, secondly, to find the Emerald ash borer’s larval stage, and lay its eggs on it.  A parasitoid that lays its eggs on an external surface of a larvae is known as an ecto-parasitoid.  In the case of this parasitoid (as well as many others that are ecto-parasitioids-but remember there are always exceptions), it is also known as an idiobiont, which is a parasitoid that paralyzes its host after oviposition-preventing it from moving further.  This makes perfect sense- if a parasitoid lays its eggs on the outside of its host, it does not want the host to be able to move and potentially crush or defend itself against the Spathius agrili larvae consuming it.

The second image to the right is another parasitoid from China that lays its eggs in the Emerald ash borer, Tetrastichus planipennisi.  This wasp is even smaller than S. agrili, averaging the size of a grain of rice.  Unlike S. agrili, T. planipennisi is an endoparasitoid, meaning it lays its eggs inside of the larvae, rather than externally.  Because this wasp does not lay its eggs on the outside of the larvae, it has no reason to paralyze it and prevent it from moving.  In fact, the host larvae will continue to feed (and therefore provide nutrition to the eggs and T. planipennisi larvae) until the eggs inside it hatch and consume its innards.  Parasitoids that employ this non-paralysis strategy are known as koinobionts.

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What do you notice about these two parasitoids?

Probably that they have two pointy things that look a lot like stingers.  Let me clarify, those are not stingers.  We are looking at two females both of which have a organ called an ovipositor.  What this organ does is allow a female to direct where she lays eggs.  In the case of these two wasps, they both use it to probe the wood of ash trees until they find an Emerald ash borer larvae, in which they then, lay their eggs.  Let me emphasize again, they is an organ to lay eggs; not sting things.

Another thing you may have noticed, is that unlike the Emerald ash borer, these wasps do not have common names, only scientific ones.  This is a result of them being cryptic (as I mentioned above).  These insects were not named as species (giving them formal scientific recognition) until they were found on a survey that specifically looked for natural enemies (I defined this in my previous post, “In search of native Agrilus”) of Emerald ash borer.  This further emphasizes that this insects are harmless to humans- if it doesn’t sting or bite or provide something beneficial, it can go unnoticed.

The purpose of this post was to introduce you to the wasps that I released today and quell the misconception that every wasp is a bad wasp.  What I will do in the second part of this series is introduce you to the Emerald ash borer and explain why wasps from China are being imported into North America to attack (lay their eggs in) it.


Don’t ever let anyone tell you wasps are useless and nasty. They’ve been fighting off ants (who are “aphid farmers”) just to eat these little pests on my corn; thus, they have been saving me the time and effort of using insecticidal soap.


Spurge hawkmoth - Hyles euphorbiae

The Spurge hawkmoth, Hyles euphorbiae (Sphingidae), was the first classical biological agent released against leafy spurge in the United States, with approval for introduction granted in 1965. The moth was also introduced from Europe into Ontario, Canada, to help control various weed spurges, and then into Alberta where specimens are occasionally still taken.

Originally the Spurge hawkmoth occurs from south and central Europe to central Asia. 

Caterpillars may approach 10 cm in length, and are variously patterned with green, yellow, and black (young); or red, black, yellow, and white (older). They are distinctive by having the so-called “ring-spots” (spots that lack a nucleus), which is thought to have an aposematic function, being used as signals of distastefulness. 

The body of the adult moths is light brown with various white and dark brown markings, while the wings have a conspicuous tan, brown, and pink or red color pattern. The upperside of the hindwing is a rosy-pink, but there is a great deal of variation among the adults.

References: [1] - [2]

Photo credit: [Top: ©Adam Gor | Locality: Nagykovácsi, Pest, Hungary, 2013] - [Bottom: ©Tony Morris | St. Margaret’s at Cliffe, England, 2007]

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University of Vermont Develops a "Forest Fungus Factory" to Control the Woolly Adelgid

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Working with the U.S. Forest Service, the State of Vermont, and others, Costa, an entomologist in UVM’s Department of Plant and Soil Science, has been developing a novel method of putting an insect-killing fungus, lecanicillium muscarium, to work protecting hemlock trees. 

I’m just doing my homework for that interview tomorrow and came across some really interesting research going on in Canada which looks into biocontrol of the Varroa mite using the predatory mite Stratiolaelaps scimitus (previously Hypoaspis miles).

The research suggests that although the predatory mite will not wipe out Varroa infestations, it will greatly reduce their numbers. S. scimitus effectively immobilise Varroa by ripping off their appendages; S. scimitus is small compared to the Varroa mite, so it cannot consume a Varroa mite in its entirety. Use of biocontrol is preferable since chemical control methods can be harmful to the bees occupying the affected hive and repeat use of chemical control agents encourages resistance in Varroa.

Anyway, I recommend giving it a look!

link 1 - article about the research with videos

link 2 - some more info about S. scimitus

On a related note, it seems that pseudoscorpions are also being considered for biocontrol of Varroa and here’s a really knarly video of a pseudoscorpion destroying a Varroa mite (to rock music, because why not)

Neon tortoise beetle

This tortoise beetle, species Cassida azurea (Coleoptera - Chrysomelidae) with only 5,5 mm in body length, was found on its host plant, Campion (Silene sp.). The shot was taken early in the morning and it wasn’t active, so the legs and antennae are hide under the body.

Due to its host specificity, Cassida azurea is regarded as a biological control agent of the weed bladder campion, Silene vulgaris.

This tiny beetle is native to western Palaearctic region (Europe to Siberia), and was introduced to North America during 1970s to combat the invasive bladder campion. 

Reference: [1] - [2]

Photo credit: ©Nikola Rahmé

Locality: Zugliget, Budapest, Hungary

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Are you ready for St. Urho’s Day this Friday? Enjoy this educational video about a hero of biocontrol.  

(more info about St. Urho here)

Insect hotels: The perfect overnight stay for beneficial insects

My latest at Hobby Farms

When most of us think of insect houses, the word “hive” comes to mind. While a Langstroth hive might be the perfect dwelling for social honeybees, a box with frames is not a universally comfortable installation for most of the 20,000 other bee species, not to mention the myriad other beneficial insects that you may want to provide a home for in the garden.

To attract a diversity of pollinators and biological pest controllers to the garden, a so-called “insect hotel” can easily be made with natural or upcycled materials and will quickly be buzzing with all sorts of life. An insect hotel is a structure that is sheltered from wind, rain and extreme heat, and has an array of differently shaped nooks and crannies where beneficial insects can make a home, breed, lay eggs and hide out over winter. It’s like a bookshelf divided into compartments, with each compartment containing materials like bricks, wood, pinecones and hollow natural tubes, such as reeds. Ideally, the front of the hotel can be protected from bird predators with wire mesh.

Different shapes and material attract different insects, so here is a rundown of what you can expect to attract with the following materials.

Read more on Hobby Farms

The Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle - Biological control Vs. Non-target impacts

Harmonia axyridis (Coleoptera - Coccinellidae), is a well-known aphid predator in its native Asian range, which has recently gained attention in North America both as a biological control agent and as a pest.

Numerous releases of H. axyridis as a classical biological control agent were made in North America, dating back to 1916. The first established population was documented in 1988 in North America. After this initial detection, it spread rapidly across the American continent and Europe. 

This beetle exhibits many color forms. Its color polymorphism appears hereditary, but larval diet and temperatures to which pupae are exposed may also influence the coloration and maculation of adults. 

H. axyridis appears to have a high ability to track aphid populations in space and time and it seems this species has effectively contributed to biological control of several species of aphids. However, adverse effects of H. axyridis on insects, humans, and crops are beginning to be identified (non-target impacts), such as the displacement of native species, including other non-pest insects; some people have developed an allergic rhinoconjunctivitis to H. axyridis; surprisingly to many people, this beetle has been reported to bite humans

Reference: [1]

Photo credit: ©Peter Cristofono | Locality: Salem, Massachusetts, US (2009)

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Before / After

About a year apart… and hundreds of hours of sweat, weeding, digging, drilling, hammering, sawing, propagating, mulching, harvesting, eating, and having the time of our lives. The SOIL is our biggest accomplishment here.. We transformed barren clay into an extremely biodiverse, well-drained, rich soil ecosystem abundant with microbial activity to support the 50+ plant species and 1,000+ arthropod, bacteria, and fungi species living in our modest garden. Even a handful of soil has thousands- if not millions- of microorganisms living and working to transform nutrients into forms that plants can uptake, “till” the soil with tunneling activities, decompose organic matter, and maintain balanced trophic levels in the food chain, amongst numerous other functions. We have spent an extensive amount of time cultivating habitats for beneficial insects to act as biological control against pests and for pollinators to source their precious nectar while pollinating our fruits. This is our first experiment of many to come in the future (hopefully on a much larger scale)… We have learned SO MUCH and will continue learning into our next few seasons on this property. 

When in doubt… the answer is always ADD ORGANIC MATTER! (especially compost tea!)

Archangel Uriel ~ Masters, In The Art Of Frequency
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By Archangel Uriel, 07/27/2016

Masters, In The Art Of Frequency. 

Dear Ones, Be Aware That There is a low band frequency wave being emitted varying from 40Hz to 129Hz with a periodic frequency that comes in that is a constant download frequency of 0.1 Hz. This is the precision of your adversaries, whom use these tools in attempts of keeping Humanity Dumb Down And In A Lower State Of Ego That controls Biological Human Avatars Through Sound Frequency. Handicapping The Telestial State Of The Human Body Into Lower Density, that has the potential of achieving Elohim States of being for their enslavement of humanity. It is what’s called “The Invisible Weapon”, for it can neither be heard or seen, yet keeps the biological physical body in a lower density of vibrations for purposes of manipulation and control. It is advised to all Light Workers and Awakened Beings, To Play Any Music Of Ones Choosing To Counter Act These Incoming Frequencies By The Controllers. It Takes Very Little Music To Counter Act The Variables Of These Controling Band Widths Of These Incoming Frequencies, In Order To Create Ones Sacred Space And Creates Peace In Ones Place Of Refuge. It Is With This Tool Of Music, That One Shall Find Relief In The Midst Of Navigating Through These Bombarding Frequencies That Does Not Have Humanities Best Interest In Mind. Sound Frequencies Can Both Heal And Harm Ones DNA, As A Result, Hinder Productivity As A Creator. With This, Turn On The Music Dear Ones, And Become The Productive Creators You Truly Are. Heart Centered And Balanced, Charging Into The Frey, Fear Nothing And Love Without Condition. Courage Creates Hope, Love In Action. You Are Worthy Of All Love Is. Love Has Won. Victory To The Light. I Leave You With My Loving Light And Peace. Blessings, Namaste <3



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