Using Ladybugs to Control Invasive Pests in Wild Apricot Forests

Jim Crocker
26th May, 2024

Using Ladybugs to Control Invasive Pests in Wild Apricot Forests

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • The study took place in wild apricot forests in Xinjiang, China, where the invasive globose scale insect is a major pest
  • The harlequin ladybird effectively preys on globose scale insects, significantly reducing their numbers in both lab and field experiments
  • Using the harlequin ladybird as a biological control agent can help manage globose scale infestations without harmful chemical pesticides
The globose scale (GS), Sphaerolecanium prunastri, is an invasive insect that has recently invaded wild apricot forests in Central Eurasia, posing a significant threat to these ancestral germplasm resources. The Chinese Academy of Sciences conducted a study to assess the biological control efficacy of the harlequin ladybird, Harmonia axyridis, against GS[1]. This study aims to address the pressing issue of invasive species and their detrimental impacts on native ecosystems and agricultural resources. Invasive insects have long been a challenge for human society, causing extensive economic and ecological damage. They spread diseases, consume crops, and damage infrastructure, leading to substantial financial losses. Estimates suggest that invasive insects cost a minimum of $70 billion annually on a global scale, with associated health costs exceeding $6.9 billion per year[2]. Additionally, globalization and climate change have facilitated the spread and establishment of invasive alien species (IAS), further exacerbating the problem[3]. Therefore, finding effective management strategies for invasive species is crucial. The study conducted by the Chinese Academy of Sciences focused on the harlequin ladybird as a potential biological control agent against GS. Biological control involves using natural predators or parasites to manage pest populations. This method is considered environmentally friendly and sustainable compared to chemical pesticides. The harlequin ladybird, a well-known predator of various scale insects and aphids, was selected for its potential to control GS populations. To evaluate the effectiveness of the harlequin ladybird, researchers conducted both laboratory and field experiments. In the laboratory, they observed the predation behavior of the ladybird on GS. The results showed that the ladybird effectively preyed on GS, significantly reducing their numbers. Field experiments were then carried out in infested apricot forests to validate these findings in a natural setting. The results from the field experiments corroborated the laboratory findings, demonstrating that the harlequin ladybird could significantly reduce GS populations in the wild. The findings of this study are significant as they provide a viable solution to managing GS infestations in wild apricot forests. By using the harlequin ladybird as a biological control agent, it is possible to mitigate the damage caused by GS without resorting to chemical pesticides, which can have adverse environmental effects. Moreover, this approach aligns with the need for proactive invasion strategies, particularly in areas with high biodiversity and low historical levels of invasion[3]. This study also highlights the importance of understanding predator-prey dynamics in conservation efforts. For instance, the decline of the Eastern monarch butterfly has been linked to predation by various arthropod taxa[4]. Identifying and leveraging natural predators can play a crucial role in conserving threatened species and managing invasive ones. In conclusion, the study by the Chinese Academy of Sciences provides a promising biological control method for managing GS infestations in wild apricot forests. By utilizing the harlequin ladybird, it is possible to protect these valuable germplasm resources while minimizing environmental impact. This research underscores the importance of integrating biological control strategies into broader invasive species management plans, especially in the context of increasing globalization and climate change.

AgricultureEcologyAnimal Science


Main Study

1) Harmonia axyridis (Boyer de Fonscolombe) (Hemiptera: Coccoidea) as a potential biological control agent of the invasive soft scale, Sphaerolecanium prunastri (Boyer de Fonscolombe) (Hemiptera: Coccoidea) in native wild apricot forests

Published 26th May, 2024

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