Are Insects the Gladiators for the Environment?

Considering how menacing and annoying many insects are, it comes as no surprise that people may end up spraying insecticides in their homes and gardens. However, the chemicals from most pesticides can be harmful to humans and the environment.

According to The Times of India, Dr. Ranjit Patil, Minister of State for Home is promoting natural pest control alternatives through the use of many people’s worst enemy: spiders.

At the third conference of the Asian Society of Arachnology, Patil guaranteed government assistance and cooperation for future research on spiders for this purpose. Patil also praised the host of the conference, JD Patil Sangludkar Mahavidyalaya, for his excellent work on spiders, despite his limitations of infrastructure and resources.

Describing spiders as being “eco-friendly” to farmers and people in general, Patil encouraged more contributions from scientists as well as the stakeholders who fund them.

Patil also announced the opening of a new department at the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), and the donation of multiple species of spiders for research from the Asian Society of Arachnology.

GN Vankhede went as far as to say that India should stop using pesticides altogether in lieu of spiders for natural pest control. Similarly, MLA Yashomati Thakur insisted that spiders could prevent the high rates of farmer suicides by improving yield through eliminating pests.

“Due to the known harmful effects of some pesticides/insecticides, and the risk of the unknown, the industry is looking more toward biological and natural remedies,” says Eric Ritchey, President, All Natural Pest Elimination. “The earth provides a lot of its own solutions to certain infestations through the use of biologicals; meaning predator meets prey as a way of eliminating unwanted or destructive and sometimes dangerous pests. The earth also provides minerals, botanical oils and inorganic solutions to the pest control industry. Although it can sometimes take more time and effort to produce the final products, they are much safer and much more effective to use.”

However, if spiders simply aren’t your cup of tea, they are not the only insects who show promise in natural pest control.

As the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) continues to wage war on the tenacious emerald ash borer (EAB) beetle, the LaCross Tribune reports that stingless wasps may be their strongest ally. The department released over 182,500 of these wasps throughout the Twin Cities metro area this year, amounting to 5,000 more wasps than the previous four years combined.

Because emerald ash borers are not native to North America, they had no known natural enemies until scientists discovered the connection between them and stingless wasps from their native Asia.

This biological control, or “biocontrol,” is a method of pairing invasive species with natural enemies. The wasps serve by killing both the eggs and larvae of the EBA before they mature.

The stingless wasps are bred by the U.S. Department of Agriculture EAB parasitoid rearing facility in Brighton, Michigan.

As the EAB population continues to grow, the MDA will release larger amounts of the wasps to counteract it.

“The MDA is still early in this process, but we’re excited that we’ve been able to recover parasitoid wasps and are hopeful for long-term success,” said Jonathan Osthus, MDA’s EAB biological control coordinator.

Their goal is to establish enough wasp colonies to reduce EAB population numbers down to a level where ash trees can survive in the environment alongside EAB.

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