Biological warfare

Our group has been learning a lot about how to identify naturally-occurring enemies of plant pests (mostly aphids). As part of one of our research projects, we have been scouting very carefully, every other week, in our tomato and pepper experiments. We are learning that when we look closely, we are seeing a whole new world!! As an example, let’s look at the borage leaf below. Borage is one of the plants that we have included as part of our habitat for beneficial insects, and boy, do those leaves have a lot going on.

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In addition to a pile of aphids, they are loaded with aphid predators. In just this one photo of half of a leaf, we can easily see three lacewing larvae (voracious predators!), two Cecidomyiid larvae (predatory midges), and a predatory hoverfly larva. Pretty neat stuff.

How will this translate into control of aphid problems on our crops? Time will tell… but in the meantime, we’re having a fun time peering into this interesting and complex world.

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