Can natural enemies of current insect pests provide biotic resistance to future pests?

11 September 2019

Pests threaten agricultural production worldwide. Classical biological control, which relies on imported exotic natural enemies to control target pest populations, has been successful in many cases. However, little is known about how these natural enemies may contribute to resisting future pests.

Biotic resistance theory suggests that resident enemies may be able to limit the success of invading species, either through competition or predation/parasitism. However, few studies have considered biotic resistance from resident natural enemies against invasive herbivores. Given the risks associated with the release of new organisms, determining the effectiveness of existing natural enemies is an important precursor to employing classical biological control.

In this study scientists from Plant & Food Research and Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research worked with a University of Auckland MSc student and generated a dataset of the known exotic parasitoid wasps (both intentionally-introduced biological control agents and unintentionally-introduced species) in New Zealand in order to assess whether these natural enemies could provide biotic resistance against potential future insect pests.

There are 65 species of known exotic ichneumonoid wasps in New Zealand which associate with 107 host species, with 54 species of these classed as pests. The current exotic species could potentially help suppress 442 pest species not yet occurring in New Zealand. 

The approach taken in this study could be used to inform pest management programmes worldwide.

 

Journal Reference

Horrocks K J, Ward D, Suckling D M, 2019. Can natural enemies of current insect pests provide biotic resistance to future pests? Agricultural and Forest Entomology. https://doi.org/10.1111/afe.12353

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