In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Theory and Practice of Biological Control

  • Introduction
  • Books
  • Biological Control: Specific Journals
  • General Overview: Journals
  • History
  • Principles and Theory
  • Use in Horticulture and Protected Crops
  • Use in Agriculture
  • Use in Forestry and Orchards
  • Use against Weeds
  • Large-Scale Production of Biological Control Agents
  • Ethical Considerations

Ecology Theory and Practice of Biological Control
Simon Leather
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 November 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199830060-0208


Crop production, be it agriculture, horticulture, or forestry, is subject to attack by pests and pathogens and to competition from weeds. The extensive use of synthetic pesticides since the 1950s led to environmental problems and the development of resistance to many of the active ingredients available. Before the advent of effective pesticides, pest control was largely by manual or cultural methods and by the use of natural enemies (i.e., biological control). Any organism that can reduce the population of a pest organism can be regarded as a biological-control agent. Vertebrates, invertebrates, fungi, viruses, bacteria, and even plants all have been used as biological-control agents. This article deals only with the past and present use of biological control. The future of biological control is undoubtedly exciting but is outside the scope of this article. It will, however, be a much more multidisciplinary and integrated pest management approach, perhaps more appropriately termed biorational control, since it will involve the use of plant chemistry, microbial biopesticides, pheromones, botanicals, genetic engineering (including gene editing), and drone technology and other innovations. An exciting future awaits.


A large number of influential books about the subject have been published since the mid-1960s. Bellows and Fisher 1999 is an edited collection, whereas Mason and Huber 2002 refers to very specific case studies. Single-author texts such as Hajek 2004 are rarer but can allow the author to pursue a particular aspect of the subject to great advantage, such as in Dixon 2000.

  • Bellows, T. S., and T. W. Fisher. 1999. Handbook of biological control: Principles and applications of biological control. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

    This comprehensive treatment of biological control has forty-one chapters by some of the then biggest names in the field. It covers the whole discipline, from theory to practice and applications. Although published near the end of the 20th century, it is still an extremely useful resource and likely to remain so for many years to come.

  • Dixon, A. F. G. 2000. Insect predator-prey dynamics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    This book takes the original approach of examining predator-prey dynamics by using one taxonomic group, ladybird beetles, and with the emphasis firmly on their efficacy or lack thereof as biological-control agents.

  • Hajek, A. 2004. Natural enemies: An introduction to biological control. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511811838

    Although published some years ago, this is a very good introduction to the subject, written in a very accessible style.

  • Mason, P. G., and J. T. Huber, eds. 2002. Biological control programmes in Canada, 1981–2000. New York: CABI.

    Ninety-nine Canadian biological-control case studies are reviewed, ranging from programs against weeds, insects, and pathogens in forestry, agriculture, and protected cropping.

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