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In Pest Control, what are Parasitoids?

Erin J. Hill
Erin J. Hill

Parasitoids are insects, plants, or animals that attach to a host during a portion of its life cycle and eventually kill the other organism. In pest control situations, the parasitoid is generally an insect which attaches to pests and lays eggs in its body. Once the eggs hatch, they live off the host's body until they lead to its death. Sometimes adult parasitoids, primarily females, seek out a particular pest host, living off its bodily fluids and using it as a nesting spot for laying eggs.

Using parasitoids for pest control is an effective way to rid one's home or garden of unwanted animals and other insects. Usually, a parasitic insect will seek out and eventually kill a specific type of pest. This makes them convenient for ridding oneself of particular pests without fear that the parasites will harm another organism. Oftentimes they search for larger species of insect. Common parasitoids are wasps, flies, and certain types of beetles.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Farmers commonly use parasitoids for pest control purposes, although they are fairly inexpensive and could be used by homeowners as well. They are often self-limiting, meaning that other predators may eventually eat some of them. This helps to keep the population under control so that they do not eventually become pests themselves.

There are many benefits to using parasitoids for pest control purposes. First, they can reduce the amount of chemical used to get rid of unwanted insects and other pests. Conventional pesticides can be dangerous to human health and the environment. They are also inexpensive because they naturally reproduce during the parasite/host relationship.

Potential downsides of using parasitoids for pest control include the fact that sometimes they may become overpopulated if there are no natural predators for them in the area, causing their own threats. For instance, flies have been known to carry disease, and wasps may become aggressive toward people and animals. It may also be hard to determine the overall effectiveness of parasitoid use if other methods are also being implemented, such as pesticides. Sometimes it may also be difficult to find a proper parasite that survives well in the same location as the pest being targeted. Special planning and consideration should be taken when making use of parasitoids.

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