Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

North Central Regional Committee on the Biological Control of Arthropods

Several societal issues facing agriculture involve pest management. These include water, soil, and air contamination; food safety and consumer health; farm worker safety; and environmental and economic sustainability. Additional issues include reduction of pesticide efficacy through pest resistance and withdrawal of pesticide registrations.

Biological control is a safe and effective approach to pest control but it has not been developed adequately in the north central United States, especially compared to other regions that have historical strength in implementation of biological controls.

In recent years there has been substantially increased interest in biological control in the North Central Region. Although there are many independent active research programs, much of the recent increased interest can be attributed to the activities of two regional committees, the North Central Regional Committee on the Biological Control of Arthropods (NCR-125), and an offshoot, the Ladybird Committee.

The USDA-CSRS (USDA Cooperative State Research Service) North Central Regional Committee on Biological Control was originally proposed in 1980 and approved in 1981. The committee's current charter is effective through September 1996. It is an informational committee, receiving funds for an annual meeting to exchange biological control information. The committee objectives are:

l) to disseminate information to members regarding biological control opportunities, policies, procedures, and regulations;

2) to identify potential targets for biological control research, specifically (but not exclusively) in classical biological control, and conduct cooperative regional projects on importation of exotic natural enemies;

3) to develop cooperative research proposals;

4) to conduct basic and applied biological control research;

5) to integrate biological control research into regional pest management programs;

6) to convey the results of biological control research to the general public, and serve as an information resource for agricultural, environmental, and policy-making communities.

The committee currently has representation from eleven states, 2 USDA-ARS ( USDA Agriculture Research Service) laboratories, 1 USDA-APHIS (USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) laboratory, the National Biological Control Institute, and the International Organization for Biological Control.

The Ladybird Committee was initiated by, and currently operates under the auspices of, NCR-125. The goal of the Ladybird Committee is to increase the implementation and visibility of biological control in the Midwest. Meetings are designed specifically to develop and coordinate active biological control projects in the areas of research, teaching, and extension. Membership is open to all who are interested in contributing time and energy to advance biological control.

University of Illinois graduate student Lisa Carloye studies insect pathogens that may be candidates for use in biological control programs.

The Ladybird Committee, in conjunction with NCR-125, has been very active in a variety of teaching, research, and extension projects. Committee members have cooperated in several extension projects and have developed proposals for several regional extension publications. Several cooperative research and educational projects also have been developed.

Extension Activities 

 Many segments of society, both agricultural and nonagricultural, recognize the need for replacing pesticide use with practical, effective, and economical alternatives. Few specific programs or educational materials on biological control are available to growers, consultants, county agents, or other clientele. NCR-125 and the Ladybird Committee, in cooperation with the University of Wisconsin, have initiated the Extension Biological Control Program for the development of crop-specific, integrated pest management manuals that focus on biological controls. These publications are being produced for distribution in the North Central Region. Educational slides are also being produced on each of the topics.

Two regional extension biological control workshops have been conducted, one at the University of Wisconsin and one at Kansas State University. A third workshop is slated for 1995 at Purdue University. These workshops were developed for extension personnel, crop consultants, educators, farmers, and the greater agricultural community. They are designed to introduce natural enemies and their role in the biological control of pest arthropods, and to provide workshop attendants practical approaches for applying biological control.


 The successful application of biological control and its growth as a discipline are critically dependent on the education of students. Students of biological control need to learn ecology, systematics, quantitative analysis, and the basic biology of biological control agents. Instructors need current information on theory and techniques, as well as a grasp of the history and practical applications of biological control in the field. NCR-125 and the Ladybird Committee have addressed the need for more graduate

level courses in biological control at midwestern universities and have established the Midwest Institute of Biological Control. Four summer short courses have been conducted and are described in the sidebar accompanying this article.


 Over seventy five full and part-time state and federal scientists are engaged in biological control research in thirteen North Central states. Research approaches consist of field and laboratory investigations from the molecular to the ecosystem level. Projects focus on a range of basic and applied topics that explore the interactions of predators, pathogens, and parasitoids, and their impact on pest organisms. Target pests include arthropods affecting field and forage crops, livestock, and humans. Some research is also being conducted on the biological control of weeds.

Biological control researchers in the North Central Region produce nearly 100 peer-reviewed journal articles, books, and other research publications per year, and have been highly competitive in procuring extramural funding to support research. In addition, members of NCR-125 have developed a regional planning grant to develop a biological control consortium in the North Central Region. The primary goals of this consortium are to promote, facilitate, and coordinate biological control activities within this region.

NCR-125 has established formal collaborative research and educational opportunities with the Pan-American School of Agriculture in Honduras. Honduran students have completed internships and graduate degree programs at Kansas State University, Purdue University, Iowa State University, and the University of Illinois.

In the future, NCR-125 and the Ladybird Committee will continue to be active in developing, implementing, and teaching biological control. The committees have every intention of making the Midwest a world leader in biological control and to ensure that the use of natural enemies is the primary management tactic used in integrated pest management.

The Illinois representative to NCR-125 is Robert Wiedenmann of the Illinois Natural History Survey. Rob can be reached at the following address: Illinois Natural History Survey, 172 Natural Resources Building, 607 E. Peabody Dr., Champaign, IL 61820, telephone (217) 333-7405.

A brochure with the names of all state representatives to NCR-125 is available to interested persons from Joseph Maddox (217) 244-5115 or Lee Solter (217) 244-5047.

Lee Solter, Robert Wiedenmann, and Joseph Maddox, Center for Economic Entomology 

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Last Modified 3/19/96

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