The need for natural enemies for pest management is intensifying every season.
Customers may wonder what forces shaped this unique industry which has none of the
attributes of a potentially successful business. Just like any agricultural product,
insects are not patentable, they perish easily and lose quality quickly, and they require
expert guidance for the customer to set up a program that will achieve desired results.
Not only are beneficials challenging to produce, protect and market, but the marketing
budgets of the chemical pesticide industry pose formidable competition indeed. The history
of the early days of the natural biocontrol industry is an example of creative application
of research knowledge to meet grower needs (before many growers were fully aware that a
The University of California Department of Biological Control was, during the 1940's,
under the inspired leadership of the founder of the science, Professor Harry Smith. The
University's Statewide Biological Control Department was headquartered at the Citrus
Experiment Station in Riverside (now the campus of UCR). The leading biological control
experts worked for the Department and visitors came to this center from around the world.
There were no courses given in this subject anywhere and few if any books were written
about biological control.
One of the preeminent researchers at the Riverside Station was Dr. Paul DeBach. In
1947, he took the lead in a five-year project with Dr. Charles Fleschner and several
technicians including senior author of this series of articles, Everett J.
"Deke" Dietrick, researching classical biological control of the California red
scale. DDT was immediately determined by this research as being destructive to predators
and parasites. "DDT trees" became a way of comparing the total effects of the
interference of natural enemies. Interference of biological control was clearly associated
with dramatic increases of many secondary pests including California red scale. A major
effort in this research was the development of mass-rearing methods for newly imported
beneficial parasites obtained from the extensive foreign explorations of Harold Compere
and released from the quarantine lab by Dr. Stanley Flanders.
Another project to use long-term biological control against both California citrus
black scale and mealybugs was also underway by Everett Dietrick and Dr. Blair Bartlett.
The great discovery of this project was the devastation of biological control by high
populations of "honeydew-seeding" ant interference to natural enemies. It was
proven that biological control of citrus could not be economically effective without ant
management. Habitat modification practices were also shown to enhance biological control.
It was during their many university field trips that the first discussions about the
opportunities for marketing key predators and parasitoids were witnessed by Everett
Dietrick between Prof. Harry Smith and Dr. Paul DeBach. By 1951, the feasibility of
biological control was proven in most of the citrus-growing areas of the state and the
opportunity should have been there. With the modern pesticide-marketing era in full swing,
however, there were no commercial market openings. Also, there was a movement toward
popular discredit of biological control evaluations due to several difficulties, including
obstacles to research resulting from the scarcity of protected "untreated check"
Help proving the feasibility for biological control, thereby hopefully stimulating a
marketing opportunity, came from Howard Lorbeer, manager of the Fillmore Citrus Protective
District. Mr. Lorbeer helped confirm the University of California researchers' conclusions
that pest management by natural enemies served the farmer better when supported by
augmentation releases of key beneficials combined with ant management. Lorbeer led the
Fillmore citrus grower cooperative to decide to grow the parasites of black scale and
mealybug in a small insectary production system and released them routinely into ant
interference spots along with ant control. Entomologists and agriculture advisors
associated with Sunkist and the Orange and Santa Barbara County Agriculture Commissions
were also involved in this dialogue furthering the development of the concepts for
biological control by natural enemies in citrus.
Yet, with a well-developed example of the concepts in Fillmore's orchards and trying as
hard as they could, the University team could not generate support among growers for
biological control programs. Fillmore Citrus Protective District has been benefiting ever
since their early adoption of biological control, averaging only one spray per acre per
year on all of their nearly 10,000 acres. Fillmore fruit was chosen for export because of
the superior quality and lack of fruit breakdown from oil spray deposits as well as the
implied lack of pesticide residues. This was the basis of the eventual development of
integrated pest management.
The early 1950's was a time when pesticide marketing was "running over"
biological control programs all over the world. Economic thresholds were set by
comparisons against the latest set of poisons. Professor Harry Smith and Dr. Paul DeBach
recognized the political problems of contesting the market forces behind pesticides. At
the same time, however, research showed resistance to pesticides was increasing
everywhere. In this climate, in 1950, Everett Dietrick secretly (he couldn't be open about
it) started the first commercial insectary in his garage in Riverside growing Aphytis
"A", a new importation that appeared to effectively control red scale in the hot
dry inland valley climate of Riverside. The first and only customer was Mr. Stover, a
Director on the Board of a large citrus production company, on a 20-acre block of his
The success of this first commercial biocontrol program was due to the habitat
management component, i.e. mulching to deter ant interference and overhead sprinklers to
foster natural enemies, combined with the release of the new parasite for the California
red scale. However, Everett Dietrick's aspirations toward a commercial insectary venture
were put on hold when the University assigned him to an exciting new project under Dr.
Robert van den Bosch to collect information about established natural enemies of
California's many vegetable and field crop systems along with a review of the literature
about known potentially useful exotic beneficial species. Since biological control
research had concentrated on orchard crops, this project would greatly expand knowledge of
insect ecology in much of the state's agriculture.
The world was being driven into pesticide addiction. Meanwhile, however, a handful of
University of California researchers in an autonomous Department of Biological Control,
with its own budget and space separate from the Department of Entomology, entered a most
interesting and productive decade of the 1950's for the study of biological control. Much
of the know-how for the future development of the biocontrol industry was developed during
The following is the
second in a series of articles outlining the history of the production and marketing of
beneficial predators and parasites (mostly arthropods) for profit. Part I described the
activities of University of California Department of Biological Control research
scientists Professor Harry Smith and Dr. Paul DeBach that inspired Everett Dietrick to
grow and supply beneficial insects commercially for the first time in 1950.
During the 1950's the conventional thought was that synthetic broad-spectrum pesticides
had put an end to pest problems forever. Tax supported ladybug insectaries that had been
built in many agricultural counties in California to produce and release predators of
citrus pests were being closed down because of budget restrictions. The mealybug
destroyer, Cryptolaemus montrouzieri Muls., that had been reared and given free to farmers
for decades would no longer be available.
In 1951, Everett Dietrick collaborated with a friend, Ernest "Stubby" Green,
and Douglas Green. The brothers owned Greens Pest Control in Ventura and had some
investment capital and time off in the winter to start what they called Rincon Insectary.
The production facility was an abandoned restaurant leased from the Faria Beach Colony on
Rincon Beach a few miles north of Ventura-hence the name Rincon Insectary. Dietrick drove
from Riverside to Ventura with his family on weekends to help Stubby grow mealybug
This commercial insectary (started about the same time as Dietrick's part time Aphytis
"A" [ligninesis] insectary venture in his garage in Riverside) was one of the
first commercial production facilities started with venture capital to grow insects for
profit. There were a few commercial collectors of Hippodamia convergens ladybugs and
preying mantis egg cases at that time, but no other for-profit production insectaries.
Dietrick found that he could not continue to produce his Aphytis "A" parasite
for California red scale and still keep his job at the University of California, but he
continued as an unpaid associate assisting the Green brothers with Rincon Insectary.
Unfortunately, Dietrick and the Greens found that the farmers would not pay for
beneficials that had previously been given to them free. The only significant contracting
customer was Irvine Ranch in Orange County. However, the business venture could not
support a full-time entomologist at that time, so Dietrick became involved in a new
research project in the university's Department of Biological Control, then under the new
leadership of Curtis Clausen, retired from being the head of the USDA Beneficial Insect
Investigations for many years. Clausen brought fresh ideas along with him that included
conducting a survey of possible biological controls for annual crops as well as other
orchard production systems besides citrus. The focus of biological control had been
largely on citrus at the University of California Citrus Experiment Station.
Clausen's library of biological control literature was one of the most extensive at the
time covering all cropping systems and was a help to UC researchers in finding and later
bringing known potentially useful exotic beneficial species into quarantine for
experimental rearing and colonization in all crops.
However, even with the statewide Department of Biological Control's own space and a
separate budget that was relatively free from the pressures of chemical pesticide
advocates, the research funds designated for real biological control by predators and
parasites was being diverted. Microbial pesticide research producing biological
pesticides, such as Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) became the focus. The proven original
biological control, a remarkably successful ingenious use of parasites and predators to
suppress pest populations, was being redefined to embrace microbial pesticides, autocidal
techniques and the use of sterile males, instead of focusing on real biological control by
natural enemies. Any increased funding gained for predator/parasite biological control was
siphoned away, as is currently the trend with genetically engineered organisms. Funds are
used for these new extensions of the definition, putting projects fitting the original
definition of biological control on the back burner.
Biological control has impressive credentials that qualify it for primary consideration
as the best foundation upon which to build environmentally safe, economic and durable pest
control programs and it has never been given the attention that it deserves.
The Green brothers continued with Rincon Insectary, making occasional visits to
Dietrick and also to Dr. Stanley Flanders who taught them how to grow Trichogramma spp.
egg parasites on Sitotroga moth eggs. Green's activities continued on a small scale until
they were approached in 1958 by a Mr. Stoltenburg of Canutillo, Texas, with a proposal for
mass-production of a trichogramma sp. egg parasite for cotton boll-worm which he was
releasing in unsprayed cotton production in the Rio Grande River basin. Stoltenburg, a
cotton farmer, was raising and releasing small numbers of these Trichogramma parasites, a
species that he had obtained from an insectary in Louisiana which was using them for
Stoltenburg's business developed beyond his ability to service it, so he and a local
gin manager, Jack Gothard, associated with the Greens of Rincon Insectary to grow and
market large numbers of Trichogramma for use by cotton farmers throughout the southwestern
U.S. The product was called "Trichos" and there was a substantial market ready
to develop. Dietrick was offered a job as a field representative to help develop sales.
The "Tricho" wasps were grown with private capital and without contracts or
promises to purchase. They were mass-produced at Rincon Insectary in Ventura and delivered
to Gothard in Texas who sold and released them on demand to farmer customers. Much of the
profit went to Stoltenburg as a distributor's bonus and to Gothard who released the
insects and collected the money. Gothard later defaulted on payment for the insects and
built his own production facility.
Dietrick's knowledge of all the insects of cotton and alfalfa that he had gained
through a decade of study with Drs. Evert Schlinger and R. van den Bosch in the U.C.
Biological Control Department gave him the confidence to make accurate pest management
predictions and decisions. Dietrick invented the D-Vac vacuum insect sampler for those
studies, which enabled the cotton insect surveys to be very thorough. The D-Vac became the
standard for monitoring the progress of biological control of cotton insects and continues
today as an international standard. The success of the cotton venture was due in large
part to skilled, knowledgeable monitoring along with applied principles of habitat
management using insights that had not yet been conceived during the earlier citrus
ventures. The extensive scientific knowledge acquired during the 1950's, as part of the
university's survey of insects in field crops became the foundation for an era of
expansion in the early history of commercial biological control by natural enemies.
Stubby Green died of cancer shortly after 1961 and Dietrick became president of Rincon
Insectary. He found willing customers in California and other southwestern cotton growing
areas. Rincon Insectary diversified into growing Aphytis parasites useful in citrus and
expanded production and marketing of pest management advice services that included
releases of Trichogramma and other predators and parasites. Marketing insects was based on
the proven pro gram of putting biological control at the forefront of our pest control
strategy similar to the Fillmore Citrus Protective District model. The insectary was
financed by marketing a service of "supervised control" that included beneficial
insects. Farmers paid an acreage charge for advice and insects for the crop or season.
Rincon entomologists regularly visited the fields and monitored the beneficial insects as
well as the pests, applying beneficials and offering advice on selective pesticide
applications when appropriate. Rincon Insectary thus became the employer of the first
generation of what became known as "applied insect ecologists" as the industry
moved into the decade of the 1960's.
Early Growth Of
Commercial Biological Control
The following is the
third in a series of articles outlining the early history of the production and marketing
of beneficials/predators and parasites for profit. Part 1 described the activities of
University of California research scientists that led to the early efforts of Everett
Dietrick to grow and supply beneficial insects commercially. Part 2 described further
University contributions to the field and collaborative commercial activities during the
The year 1960 was the first big growth year for the biological control industry. Rincon
Insectary, which began in 1951, was incorporated in 1959. The following year was a time of
political turmoil within projects in the University of California. The leaders of the
project on biological control of the spotted alfalfa aphid, entomologists Robert van den
Bosch and Evert Schlinger, were transferred to other projects on campuses away from
Riverside, which had been the center of Department of Biological Control projects and
funding for many decades. The successful projects were all abolished.
University biological control researcher Everett Dietrick was left without a project or
a future project leader. The continuing opportunities for effective biological control
research appeared to be very dim and the commercial market showed enough potential that
Dietrick quit the University of California and joined his friend and collaborator Earnest
M. "Stubby" Green at Rincon Insectary. In 1961, he was elected Secretary and
Treasurer of the three-member Board of Directors.
Dietrick started out the early months of the summer of 1960 in the Rio Grande Valley
cotton fields in Canutillo, near El Paso, and ended up the season in Nicaragua sampling
cotton insects with the newly developed backpack D-Vac vacuum insect net. D-Vac Company
was formed in 1960 to make and sell Dietrick's vacuum insect nets. That year he made his
first sale of a backpack D-Vac in Nicaragua. Over 1500 vacuum insect samplers have been
sold throughout the world since then. This sampling tool was invented for harvesting live
spotted alfalfa aphids from alfalfa, but it has become a standardized sampling method used
on many crops by research entomologists who know their insects generally find the D-Vac a
The extensive experience that had been gained by vacuuming insects compared to
conventional sweep net collections helped Rincon become a commercial force and develop
many new insights in supervised biological control of many pests. The D-Vac vacuum insect
sampler revealed information that allowed for predictions of the progress of biological
control. The conventional sampling methods often showed damage as hindsight rather than
providing needed information for predicting what was about to happen in the crop.
Without this thorough, current information the farmer is fearful and opts for
preventive spray programs. Such calendar and preventive treatments had become commonplace,
but were often applied too late. More beneficials were destroyed than were the active
target pests. By the time the spray application had been called out, the crop destruction
had already occurred. Natural enemies were already bringing the pests under biological
Dietrick's job was to persuade the growers of the costs of destroying the natural
enemies that were growing and reproducing on the farm. This cost was on top of the cost of
the pesticide application itself. He always included in such discussions of costs the
convincing argument that the most devastating cost of all was the long-term destruction of
beneficials that had been building up on the pests that could not be replaced in time for
the development of the next pest crisis.
In addition to much improved methods of monitoring and better predictions that often
avoided unnecessary spray applications, these years also saw firsts in augmentative
releases of natural enemies. The first Trichogramma sold in California was by Dietrick to
Neal Jack, a cotton grower in Imperial Valley, and the first overseas Trichogramma sale
was also made by Dietrick to Mr. Hagie, a large cotton grower m Nicaragua, both in the
summer of 1960. The Hagie contract was the start of over 30 years of Rincon sales of
Trichogramma to Central American cotton farmers.
Extensive sampling using the D-Vac on the De Anza Land Company cotton ranch in the
Borrego Valley in the low desert showed Dietrick and associates the relationship of
unsprayed cotton and alfalfa hay. De Anza yields were at maximum for five years without
any pesticides. Unique to this production system was the alternative-harvesting pattern of
alfalfa hay plantings surrounding the cotton. Trichogramma was a key beneficial parasite,
along with many other natural enemies, for cotton worms, particularly the cotton bollworm.
This experience led Rincon Insectary toward an effective commercial program, which led
to more contracting with cotton farmers for biological control. Grower's Gin of Coachella
Valley developed into a major Trichogramma customer with the help of Richard Morrison who
was hired by Rincon Insectary in 1961 to help check the cotton. The Grower's was the site
where Dietrick and Morrison proved that intensive sampling and predicting could prevent
unnecessary use of pesticides in cotton and other neighboring crops in the area.
During 1961 after the untimely death of Stubby Green, the Rincon Insectary shares were
divided among Stubby's brother Doug Green, his wife, Amelia, and his step-son Dewayne J.
(Jack) Blehm and Everett J. Dietrick who was now the only entomologist qualified for
guiding the destiny of the company. In the coming year, the company struggled financially
while developing insect markets. The California red scale parasite Aphytis spp. was
collected from the field and mass-produced. Fillmore Citrus Pest Control District
contracted with Rincon Insectary for Aphytis in 1962 until they started their own
production program. John Nickelson became an insect dealer in the cotton, tomatoes and
melons in the southern Central Valley.
The market for Trichogramma in the early decade of the 1960's was growing so fast that
the company needed to expand production facilities. A natural opportunity arose at a site
on El Rivino Road in the Fontana area near the University of California at Riverside.
Vitova Company had been started there by Dr. Stanley Flanders and his son Phillip Flanders
to produce Sitotroga moths and eggs for feeding aquarium fish.
When the market for the live Sitotroga egg fish food product was not forthcoming,
Everett Dietrick and Jack Blehm offered to buy half interest in Vitova Company which
consisted largely of the production expertise of Dr. Flanders along with a house, two
railroad box cars and three large abandoned mushroom production caves. They joined Phil
Flanders as the three active partners while Stanley Flanders remained a silent fourth
partner, since he still worked at the University of California at Riverside Biological
Control Department. The name Vitova is a contraction of "vita ova"; Latin words
for "live eggs". The remainder of the 1960's witnessed an explosion of creative
activity at Vitova, Inc. and, with guidance from some University researchers, many new
commercial biological control and mass insect-rearing methods were developed.
The Spread of The Biocontrol
The following is the
fourth and final article in a series outlining the early history of the production and
marketing of beneficial predators and parasites for profit. Part I described the
activities of University of California Department of Biological Control research
scientists leading to the first commercial insectary. Part 2 described further University
contributions and collaborations with entrepreneurs during the 1950's. Part 3 covered the
first growth of the biological control industry during the early 1960's.
During the 1960's people were confident about pesticide strategies. The early research
findings about pesticide resistance were being gathered, but even in the late 1960's
nobody paid much attention to the issue of resistance. Despite unquestioning confidence in
sprays, Rincon Insectary expanded sales into Imperial Valley cotton with Everett Dietrick
working with large innovative pioneering growers like John Elmore, Sr. of Desert Ranch.
John Jesson and his brother became dealers of Trichogramma for many of their cotton grower
clients. After hiring Charles Musgrove from the University of California with his
scientific expertise, the company was able to pick up sales in West Texas, New Mexico and
Arizona. Rincon de Mexico had been formed in 1962 and was growing Trichogramma for large
cotton farmers in Los Mochis.
In addition to expansion in Trichogramma and Aphytis production and sales, more new
insect production systems were developed at Vitova Insectary near the University of
California at Riverside. The first mass-rearing systems and markets for green lacewing and
filth fly parasitoids were developed through the talents of Max Badgeley, Ralph Scott,
Ibrahim Michael, Reed Finfrock, Joe Radzik, Doyle Gibbs, Joe Ellington and many others who
worked for Rincon and Vitova Insectaries. The new rearing facilities made up of twelve
insulated railroad ice refrigeration cars were financed by Everett J. Dietrick and leased
to Vitova Insectary.
The new biological control program for controlling filth flies was based on the
research of Dr. Fred Legner in poultry farms in Riverside County. Max Badgeley and Reed
Finfrock helped drive this effort and Finfrock also took up checking the citrus. Numerous
employees were hired, including many whom worked part-time while attending the University,
to grow insects and monitor field programs. Since none of the skills needed were taught in
any school, new employees had to be taught the skills and experience with pest monitoring
in biological control before they gained confidence in the programs.
Important researchers at the time included Dan Gonzales and yen Stern. Gonzales tested
the Trichogramma species being used for augmentation and Stern studied habitat management
planting alfalfa hay strips in cotton to trap lygus from the cotton. Alternate strip
mowing of these border strips of alfalfa and resident weeds reduced damage while acting as
a field insectary to increase effectiveness of biological control by natural enemies in
The extensive work back in 1950 on beneficial insects of cotton by Robert van den Bosch
and Kenneth S. Hagen had been completed and prepared for publication, but the political
turmoil surrounding pest management research through the late 1950's and 1960' prevented
it from being published until 1966. University of California Agricultural Experiment
Station Bulletin #820, Predaceous and Parasitic Arthropods in California Cotton Fields
became widely circulated throughout the cotton production areas around the world and was
reprinted several times on demand. It is not a "how-to" book. Biological control
papers are never recipes for action, because the diversity and complexity of the
interactions adds to the uncertainty. It is never exactly the same any time or any place
you look. Continuous monitoring is important and population models rarely fit the real
field situations that develop. There is no substitute for regular, skilled monitoring to
determine the relative populations of the many insects that had been surveyed to be part
Financing expansion of the insectary with the high payroll costs of field supervisors
was always a problem. Accounts receivable were always high because many farmers did not
pay for insects until their crops were sold. Banks would not finance biological control
purchases like they did pesticides and fertilizer. Opportunities were sought for winter
markets in Mexico and Central America that would keep the insectary and employees
productive for a longer season. The Rincon program for cotton was sold during a number of
trips by Everett Dietrick and others to large growers and distributors in Central America
and most of the cotton grown there was supplied by trichogramma from the Ventura facility.
Despite financial difficulties and many obstacles, the company always kept an open door
to part-time university students and to visitors from all over the world who came to the
University Agricultural Experiment Station at Riverside and also came in and learned
Rincon and Vitova mass rearing techniques. Thousands of visitors were given open house
tours, took photos and went back to the Soviet Union, China, Europe, Canada, Mexico,
Australia and South America where often the governments supported and subsidized the
building of infrastructures for the production, marketing and release of beneficial
insects on a much more expansive scale than in the United States.
In May 1971 there were some interested venture capitalists that funded both the merger
of Rincon and Vitova Insectaries and the leasing of a new insectary site near Milpitas.
The funding let Rincon-Vitova Insectaries and the leasing of a new insectary site near
Milpitas. The funding let Rincon-Vitova Insectaries catch up and leap ahead.
Unfortunately, the sudden introduction of the pink bollworm and subsequent ineffective
eradication attempts forced changes in biological control by natural enemies in cotton.
The commercial insectary had always relied on University research for the determination
and development of colonies of the most suitable natural enemies to solve pest problems.
The lack of sufficiently effective parasites for pink bollworm drove farmers back to
broad-spectrum pesticides in low desert cotton. Most of the cotton-growing Trichogramma
customers were lost as the farmers were suddenly determined to turn to spray programs for
this exotic cotton pest.
Unlike in the past under the University's Statewide Department of Biological Control,
the needed classical biological control research to find and establish natural enemies was
not initiated. The skills to even conduct classical projects that had been routine at the
turn of the century, were becoming lost for lack of funding at a time when the need was
greater than ever. The commercial for-profit insectary was excluded from meeting the
challenge of developing biological controls for exotic pests, while farmers repeatedly
endorsed hundreds of millions of largely wasted tax dollars on so-called eradication
projects. Public funding priorities for ag education, research, extension and
problem-solving programs has failed to put an appropriate priority on biological control
by natural enemies ever since the first marketing of pesticides as by-products of the
chemical warfare inventions of World War II.
This brief account of the early development of the commercial insectary closes at the
beginning of another phase of expansion of the industry starting in the late 1970's
largely through the skills of former employees of Rincon-Vitova Insectaries becoming
refined and proliferating at new insectaries. Forty-five years after the first commercial
insectary, there are now dozens of beneficial producers around the world and scores of
suppliers and hundreds of pest control advisors skilled in managing pests with little or
We have just mentioned a few of the hundreds of dedicated individuals who laid the
foundation of the natural biocontrol industry. They did so through the support of a few
pioneering farmers, a handful of courageous and dedicated researchers and a work ethic of
freedom of interaction, cooperation and devotion to finding safe, economical and effective
alternative biological solutions to pest problems in agriculture and throughout the
Back to Top
Fillmore Citrus Protective District
Integrated Biological Pest
Fillmore, CA 93016
closed October, 2005
by MONTE CARPENTER, MANAGER
(reprinted with permission)
Seventy six years ago most of
the citrus orchards in the Fillmore-Piru area were fumigated with hydrogen cyanide gas to
control Black scale which was the major pest of the citrus in Southern California at the
time. Now Black scale, Red scale and Mealybugs are being controlled in the Fillmore-Pier
citrus by their natural parasites and predators that were introduced into California by
the USDA and the University of California, Riverside. Most of the beneficial insects of
citrus were found in Australia, Africa or Asia. They have reduced Black scale, Red Scale
and other pests from major to minor pests in most of the Fillmore-Piru citrus orchards
The Fillmore Citrus Protective District (FCPD) is a cooperative pest control district.
It is the only citrus pest control district in California that depends on beneficial
insects to control citrus insect pests for its 9,000 acres.
The FCPD which operates the Fillmore Insectary was organized in 1922 as a chemical pest
control district to assist the Ventura County Horticulture Commissioner in the eradication
of Red scale that had been found in several orchards in Bardsdale, Fillmore, and Piru.
That was the sole purpose of the FCPD for the first four years.
In 1926 the FCPD built the first Insectary in Fillmore. It was used for the rearing of
the Cryptolaemus lady beetles that were used at the time to control the Citrophilus
mealybug that was a very serious pest of citrus at the time.
The district's first step was to find the right person to build this insectary and
organize it for the production of the crypts. Having heard of a man who was available at
the Los Angeles county Insectary, members of the board from the FCPD traveled down to
interview him. While there, they met another man that the Los Angeles County Insectary had
no desire to release. The board suspected that this person might make the better choice.
Within a matter of hours, the committee persuaded the person whom they had not intended to
Accepting the position was Howard Lorbeer, a recent Entomology graduate of Pomona
College. He was to a great extent responsible for the success of the District today. His
innovative work has influenced the course of biological pest control in agriculture, not
only here in our area, but throughout the world.
Lorbeer managed the FCPD from 1926 to 1974. By the time of his retirement, the District
had established a worldwide reputation, and its program of integrated pest management was
one of the more advanced in the history of pest management.
Today FCPD is reputed to be one of the most successful and largest Biological Control
districts of its kind in the world. Each year people from colleges, universities,
government agencies and foreign countries visit the district for informative study to
implement similar programs in other areas. Our work also brings us in close contact with
growers, county and state agencies.
Since 1926 the district has reared at their insectary and released in the Fillmore and
Piru orchards 20 different species of beneficial insects and 5 species of predacious mites
that feed on injurious mites. The two most important of these parasites are the Metaphycus
helvolus and Aphytis melinus which are being reared today.
The Black scale parasite, M. Helvolus, is a very valuable parasite. Before it was
introduced into California from South Africa in 1937, Black scale was the major pest of
citrus in Southern California. In the Fillmore-Piru area about 80% of the orchards had to
be sprayed or fumigated each year to control this pest. For the last 20 years less than 5%
of the orchards in the District have been sprayed each year to control Black scale. If it
were not for the work of the Black scale parasite, 90 - 95% of the orchards probably would
have to be sprayed each year. Black scale is now a minor pest of the citrus in most of the
acreage in the District.
When Black scale became a minor pest of citrus, Red scale took over as the No. 1 pest.
It was the major pest until the Red scale parasite, A. Melinus, was introduced into
California in 1957 from Pakistan and India. In 1960 it was brought to Fillmore and its
currently being reared at the insectary. While Red scale continues to be a major pest in
most of the areas of the state, it is now a minor pest in most of the Fillmore-Piru
orchards. This year less than 1% of the total acreage in the District had to require
chemical treatment. During 1986 the FCPD reared in the Fillmore Insectary and released in
grower members' citrus orchards about 4 million Black scale parasites and 190 million Red
Biological control is not a new approach to pest control. Biological and chemical
control both started in the 1870's. The difference between the two methods is that more
money and time has been spent in the development of insecticides than in the search for
new and better parasites and predators of injurious insects.
Through the years the District has expanded and modified its scope to meet the changing
needs of agriculture in the Fillmore-Piru area. The 1990s have brought the Persea mite.
This pest has severely damaged avocados in Southern California and has spread to Ventura
County. The most effective long-term method to control this pest is by using the predatory
mite Galendromus helveolus. The procedure to rear this predator, while time consuming, is
well researched and successfully done at a few insectaries.
Fillmore Insectary provides field scouting of Avocado groves and the rearing and
releasing of this predatory mite to grower members. It is believed that in time we will
achieve a balance between pest mites and predator mites, which will avoid economic damage
to the avocado crop.
The FCPD has discouraged the use of the highly toxic insecticides, but they are still
needed to control many of our insect pests. But when biological control does work, it is
by far the safest and most effective way to control pests.