Host specificity in arthropod biological control, methods for testing and interpretation of the data

J.C. van Lenteren, M.J.W. Cock, T.S. Hoffmeister, D.P.A. Sands

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


Potentially, the introduction of exotic natural enemies or mass release of biological control agents may lead to unwanted non-target effects. Whether or not such effects occur will depend mainly upon the host range of the biological control agent and the presence of non-target species in the areas of release and dispersal. To predict non-target effects, risk assessments for release of exotic natural enemies have been developed and applied during the modern era of biological control. Although methods to determine host ranges of natural enemies have been proposed during the past decades, decisions about release of exotic natural enemies are often still based on short-term decisions strongly influenced by financial benefit and tend to ignore environmental ethics, especially where risks are difficult to quantify. Here, we propose a framework for host-range testing of arthropod biological control agents, and suggest methods for evaluating possible effects on those non-target species considered to be at risk. Several factors should be incorporated into a host-range assessment, including literature and museum records, field observations in the area of origin, as well as physiological, behavioural and ecological observations and experiments. Usually, laboratory-based manipulative experiments will form the core of host-range assessments. In this chapter we concentrate on the question of how to determine host ranges. Several important considerations involved in designing host-range testing are presented. Next, a framework for step-wise host-range testing is given with levels of increasing complexity that should allow over- and underestimation of the host range of a biological control agent to be avoided. Finally, the interpretation of data obtained with host-range testing is discussed and conclusions are drawn about the importance of host-range testing within the framework of future biological control projects.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEnvironmental Impact of Invertebrates for Biological control of Arthropods
EditorsF. Bigler, D. Babendreier, U. Kuhlmann
Place of PublicationWallingford
ISBN (Print)9780851990583
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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