A QUEENSLAND bio-control company is working hard to keep up with the demand for their products as an increasing number of producers look to new methods to combat pests.
The rapid industry growth could be just the start, with an entomologist predicting pesticides and bio-control agencies could even provide joint package options in the future.
Bugs for Bugs produce more than 10 species of natural enemies to assist a range of industries, and in the last 12 months alone have supplied 685 million spider mite predators to growers.
The noticeable shift from fringe movement to the mainstream comes 40 years after managing director and entomologist Dan Papcek moved to the North Burnett area to help reduce pesticides on a citrus farm.
The worldwide awareness of pesticide impacts, legislation and spray resistance have all helped lift the profile of the industry, with Bugs for Bugs since expanding from their Mundubbera base into Toowoomba, with another facility at Donnybrook.
Described as ‘good bugs fighting bad bugs’, they produce a wide range of beneficial insects and mites including tiny parasitic wasps, ladybird beetles, lacewings and predatory mites
Many of these specialised organisms have a somewhat bizarre life cycle.
Spalangia, a wasp used to control horse and stable fly, lays eggs into the immature fly pupae. Once hatched, the wasp larva feeds on the fly, killing it from within, and eventually emerging from the fly pupal case to mate.
Mr Papcek said bio-control didn’t replace pesticides, but rather helped sustain them for future use.
“It’s when we misuse, over use and abuse pesticides that we create problems,” he said.
“If we use them very carefully and strategically and with a clear understanding of the side affects, they can be very valuable.”
It can take between seven and eight years to develop a new bio-control organism with Bugs for Bugs recently developing two spotted ladybird species for aphids.
Looking to the future, Mr Papcek said they would need to invest heavily in mechanisation to increase efficiencies of production.
He said not only would they be offering clear alternatives to pesticides but also working with pesticide companies to provide packages that delivered for growers.
“So that those that have been busy producing products have a better fit, that are less toxic to non-target organism and are more compatible with what we produce,” he said.
“I think more and more we will be working in tandem with them to try and have a combination of selective pesticides and bio-control agents that give them the best, most sustainable pest management options.”
It was a sentiment reflected by staff member Isaac Smith, who works in developing the fly agents.
“Mostly the thing holding it back is developing the production side of things,” he said.
“We are constantly trying to find new, more efficient ways to produce our biocontrol agents.”