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Today’s Blue-Plate Special: Treats for Beneficial Bugs

By Sean Adams
June 4, 1997

Pitting “good guy” insects against bad bugs that attack crops may sound like a simple idea, but it’s not always so simple to put into action. For starters, there’s the dilemma of raising sufficient numbers of the beneficial insects: What--and how--do you feed them?

Scientists with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service have developed an artificial diet for beneficial bugs. The recipe calls for liver and ground beef, plus other components that can be used to rear a variety of beneficial wasps and predators of crop pests. The ARS scientists have applied for a patent on the diet.

The ARS scientists next will tackle the problem of packaging the diet. They’ll work with scientists at Analytical Research Systems, Inc., of Micanopy, Fla., to test different types of polymer film coatings to contain and protect servings of the diet. The scientists want to be sure the insects can pierce the coatings and get to the food inside.

In cooperation with Predation, Inc., of Alachua, Fla., ARS scientists have reared a parasitic wasp Diapetimorpha introita, and a predator called the spined soldier bug, on the artificial diet. The main stumbling block so far: relatively low egg production from adult bugs reared on the artificial diet. The scientists are working to further refine the diet and pinpoint the cause of the low fecundity.