This article was originally published on the Conversation.
“Insect pests cause a huge amount of damage to crops globally. In Australia alone, pests are responsible for around A$360 million of crop losses a year. Controlling pest outbreaks is crucial for food security and human health. Since the 1940s, our primary defence against crop pests has been synthetic pesticides. But using pesticides comes at a huge cost.
Not all bugs are bad!
Bees, flies and butterflies help to pollinate our plants. Decomposers like beetles and worms help break down wastes and return nutrients to the soil. Meanwhile, predators and parasites help control the species that are pests. One of the biggest environmental problems with pesticides is that they can affect these beneficial species as well as the pests they’re targeting.
Predatory insects and spiders control pests with none of the health and environmental risks of chemicals. So when we kill these species with insecticides, we are shooting ourselves in the foot. Losing insects also has flow-on effects for larger animals that rely on them for food. Because invertebrates have such important roles to play in our environment, losing them to insecticides can completely change how ecosystems function.
An alternative to insecticides
Biological control (or biocontrol) relies on “secret agents” – the natural enemies (predators and parasitoids) of pests that live freely in the ecosystems around us…”
Read on at: the Conversation.