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Biological control of mealy bugs in greenhouses
8 October 2012
Currently, mealy bugs are often controlled with natural enemies in organic gardens or offices, swimming pools, zoos and botanical gardens under glass. The results of biological control for these applications is generally good, but these are not applied in commercial greenhouses. Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture in the Netherlands studied the possibilities of the release of natural enemies.
In commercial production greenhouses growers have some practical experience with curative releases of natural enemies. The beetle Cryptolaemus is often not retrieved, and releases of wasps when mealy bugs are observed are often too late. Then still insecticide intervention is needed. In this project we investigated whether the continuous use of natural enemies can prevent the expansion of mealy bugs towards not infested plants and if they can control small hot-spots. With the commercially available parasitic wasps and ladybugs we were able to eliminate small hot-spots and reduce infestations of mealy bugs, but it was not possible to fully exterminate the pest. Controlling mealy bugs was not possible without corrective spraying with chemical pesticides because a zero tolerance policy is applied in potted plants. Flonicamid proved to be an effective and selective compound to control outbreaks of mealy bugs with little impact on biological control agents. This product is unfortunately not registered against mealy bugs in greenhouses in The Netherlands.
The research was funded by the Product Board of Horticulture.