Biological Control


Biological control or biocontrol is a collective term for a set of techniques used to control animal pests, plant diseases and weedy plants. Common to these techniques is the employment of living organisms, biocontrol agents, to control or regulate the numbers of unwanted organisms.

Keywords: pest management; ecological impacts; success rates; new associations; hazards

Figure 1.

Comparison between chemical and biological control of the spider mite Tetranychus urticae in a commercial cucumber crop in Finland. D, treatment with the acaricide dicofol. The predatory mite was Phytoseiulus persimilis. Economic threshold level of spider mite is 20 mites per 5 cm2. The predatory mite was introduced in the middle of February, and provided a season‐long, effective control of the pest. Reproduced with permission from Markkula et al. .

Figure 2.

(a) Number of introductions of arthropod agents in classical biological control per decade, as recorded in the BIOCAT database (CAB International, UK). (b) Proportions of introductions in classical biological control for each decade leading to any record of nontarget effect. Adapted from Lynch et al. .

Figure 3.

An example of transient effects in classical biocontrol. Relative population densities of the target host (H), parasitoid (P), and a nontarget host (N) over time (generations). As host numbers decline and parasitoid numbers temporarily increase, nontargets are affected and decline to a minimum. After that the parasitoid numbers fall, and the nontarget recovers close to its previous level. Adapted from Lynch and Ives .



Drooz AT, Bustillo AE, Fedde GF and Fedde VH (1977) North American egg parasite successfully controls a different host genus in South America. Science 197: 390–391.

Fenner F (1983) Biological control, as exemplified by smallpox eradication and myxomatosis. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 218: 259–285.

Herren HR and Neuenschwander P (1991) Biological control of cassava pests in Africa. Annual Review of Entomology 36: 257–283.

Hokkanen HMT (1997) Role of biological control and transgenic crops in reducing use of chemical pesticides for crop protection. In: Pimental D (ed.) Techniques for Reducing Pesticide Use, pp. 103–127. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons

Hokkanen H and Pimentel D (1984) New approach for selecting biological control agents. The Canadian Entomologist 116: 1109–1121.

Julien MH (1992) Biological Control of Weeds. A World Catalogue of Agents and their Target Weeds. Ascot, UK: CAB International Institute of Biological Control..

Lynch LD and Ives AR (1999) The use of population models in informing non‐target risk assessment in biocontrol. Aspects of Applied Biology (Challenges in Applied Population Biology) 53: 181–188.

Lynch LD, Hokkanen HMT, Babendreier D et al. (2001) Indirect effects in the biological control of arthropods. In: Wajnberg E, Scott JC and Quimby PC (eds) Evaluating Indirect Ecological Effects of Biological Control. Wallingford, UK: CABI Publishing.

Markkula M, Tiittanen K and Mieminen M (1972) Experiences of cucumber growers on control of the two‐spotted spider mite Tetranychus telarius (L.) with the phytoseid mite Phytoseiulus persimilis. Annales Agriculturae Fenniae 11: 74–78.

Myers JH, Simberloff D, Kuris AM and Carey JR (2000) Eradication revisited: dealing with exotic species. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 15: 316–321.

Pimentel D, Lach L, Zuniga R and Morrison D (1999) Environmental and Economic Costs Associated with Non‐indigenous Species in the United States. []

Sheldon SP and Creed RP (1995) Potential use of a native insect as a biological control of an introduced weed. Ecological Applications 5: 1122–1132.

Further Reading

DeBach P and Rosen D (1991) Biological Control by Natural Enemies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gurr GM and Wratten SD (eds) (2000) Measures of Success in Biological Control. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers..

Hall FR and Menn JJ (eds) (1999) Biopesticides, Use and Delivery. Totawa, NJ: Humana Press.

Hokkanen HMT (1985) Success in classical biological control. CRC Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences 3: 35–72.

Hokkanen HMT (1991) New approaches in biological control. Pimental D CRC Handbook of Pest Management in Agriculture, 2nd ed. vol. II, pp. 185–198. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Hokkanen HMT and Lynch JM (eds) (1995) Biological Control: Benefits and Risks. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (1998) Invaders from Plant Earth. World Conservation 28: 1–63.

Pickett CH and Bugg RL (eds) (1998) Enhancing Natural Control of Arthropod Pests Through Habitat Management. Davis, CA: Ag Access Corp.

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Hokkanen, Heikki MT(Apr 2001) Biological Control. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0003251]