Some species are harmful to humans and need to be controlled, such as bacteria in drinking water. Studying these organisms helps scientists to find out what conditions they thrive in, where they are most likely to be found and how they could be controlled.
Sometimes, other natural organisms can be used to reduce the numbers of more harmful species, for example, by feeding on them. This is called biological control, or bio-control.
Find out how it can be used to tackle a range of problems from water-borne bacteria to house dust mites.
Arachnula impatiens is a single-celled organism about the size of a pinhead that lives in soils around the world. It belongs to a family called vampire amoebae that feed by boring a hole into their victim and sucking out the contents. Arachnula impatiens can also engulf its prey whole. Explore the miniature world of this ‘impatient spider-like amoeba’ and discover why it might make a good bio-control agent.
Cheyletus eruditus is a predatory mite that is used in agriculture to attack pest mites in bulk food stores such as granaries. It feeds on insects and mites, and will eat its own kind if food is scarce. Find out how environmental conditions can affect this species and what makes it such a useful bio-control agent.
E. formosa is probably the most famous biological control agent in history and has been used to control greenhouse whitefly - Trialeurodes vaporariorum - since the 1920s. The parasitoid wasps lay their eggs in whitefly nymphs, and feed on them too. A single wasp can kill around a 100 whitefly nymphs in its short lifetime. Discover more about this wasp’s killer habits.
The marmalade hoverfly is a useful bio control agent that gobbles aphids wherever it finds them. It lives throughout the Palaearctic region, which covers Europe, North Asia and North Africa, and is swept into the UK in large numbers each summer by southerly breezes. Find out more about this marmalade-coloured migrating fly.
Milichia patrizii is an interesting species of fly. Known for its attacks on Crematogaster ants, from which it steals food, it has become known as the ant-mugging fly. It was discovered by Willi Hennig, who is famously known for developing phylogenetic systematics. Find out more.
Parasitoid wasps lay their eggs on a host, usually another insect, which their larvae feed on and eventually kill. Some are very useful commercially as biological controls of pest species. Find out more about Ophion obscuratus, a nocturnal parasitoid wasp that can be found across Britain.
Phytoseiulus persimilis is a fast-moving and voracious predatory mite that feeds almost exclusively on spider mites. Find out more about Phytoseiulus persimilis
This blue-green micro-organism could have some beneficial uses as biological control against harmful cyanobacteria or as a biological indicator of organic water pollution. Its way of eating prey resembles someone slurping up spaghetti. Find out more.
Reduvius personatus, the masked hunter, is an assassin bug that cleverly disguises itself in its dusty habitat and feeds on household insects and lice. It has adapted to life in the home, and is almost always found in human dwellings. Discover more about the life of the masked hunter and how it disguises itself.
Solanum sisymbriifolium is a prickly plant with sticky leaves and bright red fruits. It is native to South America, where it grows like a weed. It has been grown in Europe since the 18th century, where it is known as viscid nightshade thanks to the tiny hairs on its leaves and fruits. Discover more about this ‘spiny’ plant, and how farmers use it to control a potato pest.
Telenomus dignus is a parasitoid wasp. Find out more about how Telenomus dignus can aid the pest control of the sugarcane top borer Scirpophaga nivella and so protect the sugarcane crop.