University of Florida

Insect Laboratory

More than 1,000 immigrant insect species currently live in Florida. Moreover, exotic insects continue to arrive into the state at the rate of approximately 1 per month. Some of these species are pests of agricultural crops, turf and landscape flora, and native plants. Annual losses and damages caused by non-indigenous arthropod species in crops and turf in the United States total about $16 billion. In many situations the most economical and safest way to combat adventive herbivorous pests is to find specialized natural enemies, particularly parasitoids and predators. Specialized natural enemies co-evolved with the pest, thus their biology is highly attuned to that of the pest. Specific natural enemies will attack only the new pest and thus pose minimal risk to other organisms. Once viable populations of natural enemies are established in the field they will continue to regulate a pest's population at a significantly lower level compared to the higher average level when the natural enemies were not present. Benefits from our research are the acquisition of new biological control agents for combating adventive insect pests and the enhancement of our knowledge about how biological control agents function and influence pest populations. With better biological control tools and more knowledge of the biology and ecology of natural enemies, effective integrated pest management programs can be designed to better conserve native flora and crops.

Cycad aulacaspis scale
Cycad Aulacaspis Scale

Mexican bromeliad weevil
Mexican Bromeliad Weevil

Yellowmargined leaf beetle larvae
Yellowmargined Leaf Beetle Larvae