Insect Killing Nematodes
December 5, 2015 | All About Nematodes
Nematodes are roundworms that can be found across the earth, both on land and in the sea. They are prolific, making up as much as 80% of all animal life on the planet. There are hundreds of thousands of different types of nematodes, with many of those being parasitic. While some nematodes are indeed harmful to people, many, including the nematodes BioLogic produces are not. The three species BioLogic produces are insect pathogenic only, meaning they are completely safe for people, pets and plants. However, there are many other species of nematodes that kill insects in addition to the three species BioLogic produces.
This post aims to introduce a couple of the wide variety of entomopathogenic (or insect parasitic) nematodes known today. While a few species of entomopathogenic nematodes are commercially available in the United States, such as those in BioLogic nematode products, many are not. So far species in the Heterorhabditidae and Steinernematidae family have been effectively used for pest control and are commercially available in the States, though there are many other species that are interesting and show potential for insect pest control.
Mermithid nematodes are one example of a nematode that is not commercially available, but that shows potential as a biocontrol. There are many species of Mermithid nematodes, ranging in size from 10mm-100mm (much larger than the species used in BioLogic’s nematode products). Many Mermithid species are parasitic to mosquitos in particular, making them an interesting prospect for malaria control. Though studies have shown Mermithids to be an effective mosquito control, they are quite expensive to mass produce making commercialization difficult at this time.
Beddingia siricidicola is another interesting nematode that has been successfully used for insect pest control. The B. siricidicola nematode has been used to control Sirex noctilio, a woodwasp that has proven to be extremely devastating to pine trees. Australia spent over $1M in the late 1980’s on releasing these nematodes in an effort to combat the widespread wasp infestation which was costing the Australian timber industry billions of dollars per year. Australia and other countries including Brazil, have successfully used B. siricidicola nematodes as part of effective integrated pest management programs. B. siricidicola is a great example of a very effective biocontrol that has been shown to naturally combat a very serious, and very costly insect pest problem.
There are many advantages to using nematodes for insect pest control, many of which we have detailed in posts like this one before. These beneficial nematodes are a great way of controlling many common pest insects without the negative effects of chemical pesticides. Additionally, having healthy populations of insect pathogenic nematodes has been shown to reduce the population of plant parasitic nematodes (such as root knot nematodes) which can cause significant plant and crop damage.
We find the incredible diversity of the insect killing nematode population fascinating, and hope you agree!
Grewal, P.S. and R.-U. Ehlers and D.I. Shapiro-Ilan. Nematodes as Biocontrol Agents. Oxfordshire, UK: CABI Publishing, 2008. Print.