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Amblyseius swirskii: What made this predatory mite such a successful biocontrol agent?

Calvo, F. Javier, Knapp, Markus, van Houten, Yvonne M., Hoogerbrugge, Hans, Belda, José E.
Experimental & applied acarology 2015 v.65 no.4 pp. 419-433
Amblyseius swirskii, Bemisia tabaci, Capsicum annuum, Frankliniella occidentalis, Polyphagotarsonemus latus, Trialeurodes vaporariorum, acarology, biological control, biological control agents, chemical control, crops, exports, greenhouses, growers, integrated pest management, markets, ornamental plants, pesticide residues, pests, pollen, population, predatory mites, protected cultivation, raw vegetables, rearing, vegetables, Spain
The predatory mite Amblyseius swirskii quickly became one of the most successful biocontrol agents in protected cultivation after its introduction into the market in 2005 and is now released in more than 50 countries. There are several key factors contributing to this success: (1) it can control several major pests including the western flower thrips, Frankliniella occidentalis, the whiteflies Bemisia tabaci and Trialeurodes vaporariorum and the broad mite, Polyphagotarsonemus latus, simultaneously in vegetables and ornamental crops; (2) it can develop and reproduce feeding on non-prey food sources such as pollen, which allows populations of the predator to build up on plants before the pests are present and to persist in the crop during periods when prey is scarce or absent; and (3) it can be easily reared on factitious prey, which allows economic mass production. However, despite the fact that A. swirskii provides growers with a robust control method, external demands were initially a key factor in promoting the use of this predator, particularly in Spain. In 2006, when exports of fresh vegetables from Spain were stopped due to the presence of pesticide residues, growers were forced to look for alternatives to chemical control. This resulted in the massive adoption of biological control-based integrated pest management programmes based on the use of A. swirskii in sweet pepper. Biological control increased from 5 % in 2005, 1 year before A. swirskii was commercially released, to almost 100 % of a total 6,000 ha of protected sweet pepper in Spain within 3 years. Later, it was demonstrated that A. swirskii was equally effective in other crops and countries, resulting in extensive worldwide use of A. swirskii in greenhouses.