Where do beneficials come from?

Features - Views from the Buglady

Suzanne Wainwright-Evans provides a primer to the beneficials industry.

I don’t think we will ever live in a world where pesticides are not needed, but beneficial insects, mites, nematodes and fungi are sure stepping up to the plate to help out with many pest issues. The list of pests that can be controlled with the beneficials is forever growing.
Over the years we have gotten a lot smarter in understanding how to use these little killing machines to our advantage. But did you ever stop to think about where these beneficials come from? Here are just a few of the privately-owned facilities that produce beneficial insects, mites, nematodes and fungus in North America.
Applied Bio-nomics Ltd. in Victoria, B.C., Canada, produces a variety of predatory mites and beneficials. Founder and president Don Elliott has been active in biological pest control since 1970. It was the first to commercially produce many of the available biocontrols such as Hypoaspis miles, Delphastus catalinae, Stethorus punctillum and Aphidius matricariae. The company harvests daily, so beneficials do not have to be stored. www.appliedbio-nomics.com
Becker Underwood, based in Ames, Iowa, sells beneficial nematodes throughout Europe, North America, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Becker Underwood first started selling nematodes in 1989, starting with the species Steinernema feltiae, widely used for the control of fungus gnats and western flower thrips. Currently it produces nine species of nematodes — not all for sale in the U.S. Quality control procedures include counts on viable nematodes and bioassay checks on efficacy. Chemical compatibility information is available on its Web site. www.beckerunderwood.com
Biobest was founded 1987 in Belgium by Roland De Jonghe. It rears and supplies more than 30 species of beneficial insects and mites. It offers a full line of biocontrol agents from predatory mites to whitefly parasites. Biobest also provides a side effects manual detailing how pesticides impact biological control agents. One of its technical support team members, Ronald Valentin, has developed a banker plant system using Black Pearl peppers, targeting western flower thrips. His system uses pepper plants to establish populations of the biological control agents. www.biobest.be
BioLogic is a family-owned business located in Willow Hill, Pa., focusing on beneficial nematodes. Founder Albert Pye worked at the University of Umeå, Sweden studying beneficial nematodes prior to starting his company. BioLogic’s list of nematode species include Heterorhabditis bacteriophora, Steinernema feltiae and S. carpocapsae. www.biologicco.com
BioWorks is not a traditional insectary, it is more of a fungus farm, producing beneficial fungi to control pests. The company opened its doors in 1993 in New York with the RootShield product. RootShield is Trichoderma harzianum, a helpful fungus that fights plant pathogens like Pythium, Rhizoctionia, Fusarium, Thielaviopsis and Cylindrocladium. It also carries Beauveria bassiana (BotaniGard) used to target insect pests like aphids and thrips. Both of these products are OMRI listed. BioWorks also carries a line of beneficial nematodes. www.bioworksbiocontrol.com
IPM Labs of Locke, N.Y., was founded in 1981 as a service company. Then realizing the need for commercially produced beneficial insects, IPM Labs started producing beneficials in 1985. Carol Glenister of IPM labs said the company wants to find beneficial insects which establish themselves in greenhouses. IPM Labs also services biological control programs that are on a release schedule. The company supplies more than 40 different beneficial insects and nematodes. www.ipmlabs.com
Rosa Ruiz and Kim Horton of Sterling Insectary work in one of the predatory mite production houses.    
Koppert Biological Systems BV got its start in 1967 when Dutch cucumber grower Jan Koppert first began experimenting with predatory mites to control red spider mites. That work laid the foundation for Koppert, one of the worldwide leaders in the production of biological control agents. Koppert has recently started producing Phytoseiulus persimilis at its California facility. Koppert produces a wide range of biological control products such as predatory mites, beneficial nematodes and parasites. www.koppert.com
Sterling Insectary was established in 1994 to raise predatory mites for a 4th-generation California family farm, Billings Ranches. Matt Billings began growing western predatory mites to reduce pesticide use in the family’s almond orchards. The firm expanded its line to include other predatory mites like Neoseiulus californicus, commonly known as the “Cali mite.” www.sterlingnursery.com
Syngenta Bioline Ltd. is active throughout Europe, North America and Japan. It produces a wide variety of biological control agents, from predatory mites to aphid parasitoids, but is probably best known here in the U.S. for the predatory mite, Phytoseiulus persimilis, which targets spider mites. The company recently added Amblyseius andersoni, a naturally occurring predatory mite in the U.S. www.syngenta-bioline.co.uk
The Bug Factory was founded by the husband-and-wife-team of Angela and Chris Hale. With facilities in Nanoose Bay, British Columbia, Canada, it has all the proper permits to ship to the U.S. One of its fastest-growing customer bases is the organic grower. The Bug Factory provides controls for mealybugs, spider mites, fungus gnats and other pests. www.thebugfactory.ca
This list is by no means exhaustive. There are many more insectaries and biological distributors in North America.  For a more inclusive list, visit the ANBP (Association of Biological Producers) Web site at www.anbp.org.