As growers switch to transgenic crops and selective insecticides that are less toxic to natural enemies, natural enemies can become more important in agricultural pest management. Current decision-making guides are generally based on pest abundance and do not address pest and natural enemy toxicity differences among insecticides or the impact of natural enemies on pest survival. A refined approach to making pest management decisions is to include the impact of natural enemies and insecticides, thereby better integrating biological and chemical control. The result of this integration is a dynamic threshold that varies for each product and the level of biological control expected. To demonstrate the significance of conserved biological control in commercial production, a decision-making guide was developed that evaluates control options for European corn borer, Ostrinia nubilalis (Hübner) (Lepidoptera: Crambidae), in sweet corn, Zea mays L., where the primary natural enemies are generalist predators. Management options are λ-cyhalothrin (broad-spectrum insecticide), spinosad (selective insecticide), Trichogramma ostriniae (Peng & Chen) (Hymenoptera: Trichogrammatidae) (parasitoid), and Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) sweet corn (transgenic variety). The key factors influencing thresholds for all treatments are the intended market, predator populations, and the presence of alternative foods for the predators. Treatment cost is the primary factor separating the threshold for each treatment within a common scenario, with the lowest cost treatment having the lowest pest threshold. However, when the impact of a treatment on natural enemies is projected over the 3-wk control period, the impact of the treatment on predators becomes the key factor in determining the threshold, so the lowest thresholds are for broad-spectrum treatments, whereas selective products can have thresholds >6 times higher by the third week. This decision guide can serve as a framework to help focus future integrated pest management research and to aid in the selection of pest management tools.
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Vol. 99 • No. 5