Jeff Burbrink photo- lady beetle

The larva of a lady beetle consumes aphids, which are feeding on milkweed. While lady beetles are fierce predators, most people do not recognize them as useful biological controls.

Predators, or animals that capture and eat their prey, are one of the “three Ps” of biological control, along with parasites and pathogens. In North America, we think of bears, mountain lions, bobcats or coyotes as the larger predators. Southern Indiana farmers are dealing with an increasingly bothersome black vultures that feeds on live animals, unlike the turkey vultures in northern Indiana.

In the plant world, the predators are smaller, but just as ferocious. But predatory insects sometimes suffer from the stigma of being “creepy.” Adult lady beetles, and preying mantids are well recognized, but most spiders, wasps and other multilegged predators are frequently considered “bad” because they are scary looking.

Jeff Burbrink is an educator with Purdue Extension Elkhart County. He can be reached at 574-533-0554 or jburbrink@purdue.edu.

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