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Suterra Entomologist Discusses Mating Disruption, Biocontrol

Suterra Apr 9, 2021 1:59:28 PM

Dr. Emily Symmes, a Suterra entomologist discusses sustainable mating disruption puffers along with IPM and biocontrol with UAV-IQ.

    UAV-IQ’s Thomas Grandperrin recently reached out to Dr. Emily Symmes, a Ph.D. entomologist and member of the Suterra team, to discuss the benefits of mating disruption. Like Suterra, UAV-IQ is a company dedicated to providing alternatives to farmers who recognize the drawbacks of an insecticide-only pest management approach. UAV-IQ primarily uses its drone technology to release beneficial insects over key points on clients’ farms, keeping pest populations down through augmentative biocontrol.

Dr. Emily Symmes.

    Symmes is the Senior Manager of Field Services at Suterra and has extensive experience in Integrated Pest Management. Symmes has also done public outreach for Suterra before. Just this month, she appeared in the MyAgLife podcast discussing the benefits of using natural enemies to control pests. 

Grandperrin’s article can be found here on the UAV-IQ website.


     With Grandperrin, Symmes discusses how mating disruption can be an asset to growers who are looking to pursue an IPM strategy. Suterra’s MD’s are extremely versatile, coming in a variety of deployment platforms that can be selected to best fit your unique farm. Additionally, mating disruption only affects the species that the product is meant to target, which can be extremely helpful in an IPM program, as Symmes explains.

    Because mating disruption only affects the intended pest species, beneficial insects in the orchard are unaffected. If allowed to thrive, beneficial natural predators can keep populations of pests under control without farmers even realizing it. Unfortunately, some growers learn the importance of beneficial insects the hard way, as Emily explains. While insecticides produce immediate results, they also run the risk of killing off critical control species.

“Pyrethroids are quite inexpensive, and when there’s no resistance, they can be effective if timed pretty well. But they have unintended consequences, like blowing up the spider mite populations by adversely impacting natural enemies, which in turn might increase the need for more miticide applications.”

     The species-specificity of MDs grants them some excellent synergy with augmentative biocontrol. In the past, many growers have criticized augmentative biocontrol, such as parasitoid wasp releases, as inefficient and costly since new populations of the insects regularly have to be re-released. However, Symmes explains that this perception is largely due to the fact that biocontrol species are just as vulnerable to insecticides as pests are. 

“A grower perhaps would invest in the purchase and release of natural enemies, but then they would have to come in with broad-spectrum sprays and end up wiping out their investment.”

Parasitized Navel Orangeworm larva. Photo credit Dr. Emily Symmes

     By using species-specific nontoxic pest management solutions like mating disruption, strategies like augmentative biocontrol suddenly become much more viable. When used in conjunction with each other, these technologies can form a robust blockade against pests by targeting problem insects at multiple stages of life. IPM plans can also help farmers avoid putting all of their eggs in one basket. With pesticide resistance on the rise and regulations on insecticides tightening, even ‘conventional’ growers can benefit from looking into how IPM may carry them into the future.

     If you have questions about mating disruption, IPM, and how these strategies may fit into your form, the experts at Suterra are happy to help. Contact your local Suterra representative or send us a message online using this form.