Harnessing insects for on-farm biological control and nutrient cycling

You may have experience with two and four footed livestock but how about livestock with six or no legs?

Larval and adult black soldier fly.

Larval and adult black soldier fly.

Composting farm and food wastes has become increasingly important to management of small farms. However, some food wastes are difficult or impossible to process using hot compost or vermicomposting techniques. Arthropod based composting using black soldier flies is an attractive option because the flies can process high oil and protein sources that worms cannot. In addition black soldier flies make a great feed source for fish and foul and common composting systems incorporate “self harvesting.”

Thrips, fungus gnats and other soil borne pests are a consistent problem in greenhouse, hoop house and some open field agriculture crops. Thrips are especially challenging to manage due to their rapid development of insecticide resistance. Augmentative biological control provides a good alternative to insecticides when available. Entomopathogenic nematodes and predators like D. coriaria are two biological control organisms with a track record of use for Integrated Pest Management (IPM) of a variety of soil insects including thrips. Sourcing these natural enemies can be challenging, so learning to rear your own can make them a more feasible pest management option.

nematode life cycle

Join us for a webinar on Tuesday November 25, at 1 p.m. EST covering three easily reared invertebrates to learn how they might be applied in your farm, garden or greenhouse. We will present rearing strategies for these three groups of “micro livestock”: a predatory beetle, entomopathogenic nematodes and black soldier flies.

Dalotia coriaria is a highly mobile predatory beetle that prey upon thrips, fungus gnats and other soil dwelling pests. Entomopathogenic nematodes are small, unsegmented worms used as a biopesticide for many soil dwelling insect pests. Black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) larvae can be used to recycle nutrients from large quantizes of organic matter ranging from manure to pre- and post-consumer wastes.