Helpful Insects Thrive on Special Fast-Food
By Marcia Wood
February 5, 2001
Beneficial insects like green
lacewings and big-eyed bugs are now easier and less expensive to rear
indoors--by the millions--thanks to a special fast-food recipe developed by an
ARS scientist. The research-based
formula for what's known as artificial diet is now being described as the most
successful ever developed for indoor production of these helpful insects.
When set free in fields of corn or other crops, laboratory-reared lacewings
and big-eyed bugs will find and make a tasty meal of whiteflies, bollworms,
mealybugs and other notorious crop pests. By augmenting naturally occurring
populations of their counterparts, the lab-reared insects can help reduce
growers' reliance on chemical insecticides. Thats according to the
formula's developer, ARS entomologist Allen C. Cohen. And, because they rely on
technologies other than chemical insecticides, the research is a boon to
organic farmers, as well.
Beneficials reared on the Cohen cuisine are healthy and vigorous and produce
more offspring than their counterparts. Too, they are up to 50 percent larger,
and they typically mature earlier. Those are assets in outdoor living.
Cohen, now based at the ARS
Biological Control and
Mass Rearing Research Unit at Mississippi State, Miss., did the research
while with ARS at Phoenix, Ariz. Four U.S. companies currently hold licenses to
use the patented concoction. They are Beneficial Insectary, Redding, Calif.;
BioLogixs, Denver, Colo.; Buena Biosystems, Inc., Ventura, Calif.; and
Oregon Freeze Dry, Inc., Albany, Ore.
Cohen's formula resulted from his pioneering investigations of the
beneficial insects feeding biology and of the nutrient composition of
their typical menu--eggs or innards of their hapless prey. Cohen's fare has a
liverwurst-like texture and is a blend of meat paste, sugar, yeast and
specially cooked chicken eggs.
Though designed primarily for green lacewings and big-eyed bugs, the recipe
can be slightly modified to nourish two other important beneficials--minute
[pronounced MY- noote] pirate bugs and lady beetles.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.
Scientific contact: Allen C. Cohen, ARS Biological Control and Mass
Rearing Research Unit, Mississippi State, Miss.; phone (662) 320-7524, fax
(662) 320-0478, email@example.com.