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US entomologist: Not all bugs are bad

Farmers should not be so quick to rid their crop fields of all insects, as some offer a biological control for invasive pests. Kevin Rice, the new field entomologist for the University of Missouri, says beneficial insects have been helping farmers for years.

The impact of predatory bugs on crops dates back to the 1860s, when a man named Charles Valentine Riley used a beetle to rid the citrus industry of the cottony cushion scale.

According to an article on wallacesfarmer.com, prior to 1868, the US had not seen this insect. At the time people thought the cottony cushion scale arrived on a plant shipment from Australia. It took up residence in the orange grove and began sucking the juices from trees. Those trees could not produce fruit. The insect multiplied to levels that threatened survival of the US citrus industry.

At the time, Riley was Missouri’s state entomologist. In California, he found the vedalia beetle, which he used as predator for the pest. “In just a few years, the introduction of this beetle brought the cottony cushion scale down to a manageable economic level,” Rice says. “It shows the power of predators in our systems.”

Publication date: 4/5/2018


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