Natural enemies of insect and mite pests are referred to as beneficials.

  • Predators consume several-to-many prey over the course of their development. They are free living, and are usually as big as or bigger than their prey. Predators may be generalists, feeding on a wide variety of prey, or specialists, feeding on only one or a few closely related species.
  • Parasitoids are similar to parasites, but where true parasites usually weaken but rarely kill their hosts, parasitoids always kill the host insect. In contrast to predators, parasitoids develop on or within a single host.
  • Pathogens are diseases that attack pest insects. Pathogens of agricultural pests are usually bacterial, fungal or viral.

See also:  Monitoring beneficials and Conserving or supplementing beneficials

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Target pestSpecific symptoms/behaviourMonitoring methodHabitat/field prevalence
AntsAntVarious small pests, caterpillar eggs, immature stages of some pests
  • Take any food they can get.
  • Protect/spread some pests: aphids/mealybugs – for honeydew
Direct search, visualOld logs/ timbers. Populations reduced by inter-row cultivation or irrigation. Occur all year round
Assassin bugAssassin bugFeed on many different pests – prefers soft bodied prey e.g. caterpillars and small bugs such as mirids. Nymphs can consume up to 160 small – medium larvae over a 10 week periodApproaches victims from behind, stabs with stylet-like mouthparts containing an enzyme which dissolves organs. Bugs suck these out – leave an empty shell of preyVisual and sweep netFound in crops, urban areas, coastal regions, forests and woodlands. Mainly in spring
Bigeyed bugbigeye bugPredator of eggs of Helicoverpa and other species. Soft-bodied insects – whitefly and mitesPiercing and sucking mouthparts – feed on body fluids of prey. Can survive on nectar and honeydew when prey is scarce.Visual and sweep netFound in most crops. Mainly spring and summer. Numbers reduced by: insecticides, rainfall, high temperature and humidity
Brown smudge bugSmudge bug adultFeeds on Helicoverpa eggs, aphids, apple dimpling bug. Aggressive predator of mitesPiercing and sucking mouthparts – feed on body fluids of prey.Visual and sweep netAbundant in crops e.g. soybeans, lucerne, peanuts, sunflower. Spring and summer
Damsel bugdamsel bug nymphFeed on eggs and larvae, mites and aphidsPiercing and sucking mouthparts – feed on body fluids of prey.Visual and sweep netFound in most crops where caterpillars present. Adults – on weeds, winter crops and perennial crops. Mainly spring
EarwigsPredatory earwig attacking helicoverpa pupaPredator of all kinds of larvae, pupae and wireworms. Will attack Helicoverpa pupae in underground chambersThe common brown  earwig is a nocturnal predator while the black earwig is a pest of seeds and seedlingsVisual searching – under logs, rocks, shelter trapsWidespread – found in most rural and urban areas
Green carab beetle

Green carab beetle

Hunts caterpillars and slow moving prey. Carab beetle larvae are predaceous but live in the soil.Adults hide during the day and hunt at nightShelter traps, night observationWide range of vegetation, urban areas, cropping and native vegetation. All year
Green soldier beetle

Green soldier beetle

Adults feed on moths, larvae, Helicoverpa eggs. Soil dwelling larvae feed on soft bodies invertebratesCan feed on leaves – have been known to feed on soybeansVisual and sweep netMainly found in native vegetation – specifically eucalypts, also urban areas, cropping, forests
Hover fly larvaeHoverfly larvae attacking aphidsSoft bodied insects – aphids, scale insects, thrips, caterpillarsOnly larvae of hoverfly prey on pests. Adults feed on nectar and pollenVisual and sweep net
Beat sheet
Various crops especially those infested with prey – especially aphids
Brown lacewingBrown lacewing larvaeActive predators of soft bodied insects e.g. aphids. Also feed on Helicoverpa eggsDiffer from green lacewing by being longer, thinner and larvae do not camouflage themselvesVisual and sweep net
Beat sheet
Found in most habitats, common in urban areas with adults attracted to lights. Spring to autumn
Green lacewingGreen lacewing larvaeGeneral predators – feed on thrips, mites, aphids, mealybugs , moth eggs and small caterpillarsAdults feed on nectar and pollen. Larvae camouflage themselves with remnants of dead prey which they place on their backsVisual and sweep net
Beat sheet
Flowering vegetation will encourage green lacewings to stay in the landscape. Spring to autumn
Ladybird beetlesladybird larvaeImportant predator in most crops, early season. Voracious predators of aphids – may stop aphid populations from exploding. Also eats scale insects, mites, mealybugs, moth eggs and larvae, whitefly and jassidsMany types of ladybirds. The common spotted ladybird can consume up to 2400 aphids in her lifespan.Visual search
Sweep net
Beat sheet
Widespread distribution. Abundance often coincides with availability of the main food source of aphids and mites. All year round
Pirate bugpirate bugThrips, mites, insect eggs and aphidsMay also feed on pollen – most common when crops are flowering and when thrips are most abundant.Visual and sweep netFavour crops that produce flowers with pollen. Good flyers which assist with dispersal in the landscape. Spring to autumn
Parasitoids of aphids
Lysiphlebus testaceipus
Aphidius colemaniAphidius
Aphids – parasitoids detect aphids through signals produced by aphid and infested plantFemale wasp inserts an egg into the aphid, developing larvae feeds inside aphid – killing it. Dead aphids take on a brown, swollen appearance – called a mummyVisual and sweep netLive in a wide range of crops – especially those infested with aphids, native vegetation and grassy habitats
Parasitoids of Lepidoteran (moths and butterflies) larvae
Netelia producta
Heteropelma scaposum
Lissopimpla excelsa
Microplitis demilitor
Tachinid sp.-
Larvae – e.g. Helicoverpa, armywormWasps and parasitic flies (e.g. tachnid fly). Wasps sting young caterpillar (2nd-3rd instars) and lays eggs on or in larvae. Tachinid flies kills host through eggs laid on host or host consuming eggs and fly maggot burrows into host.Visual and sweep netFound in crops where prey is present as well as native vegetation and riparian vegetation
Parasitiods of pupae
Banded caterpillar parasite
Ichneumon promissorius
Brachymeria sp.
Banded caterpillar parasitoid
Specifically search for and parasitise moth pupae. Banded caterpillar parasitoid specifically target Helicoverpa and armyworm. Brachymeria is less specific with its prey.Wasps locate and penetrate pupal chambers. Lays an egg in pupa and feeds of fluids from puncture wound. Host larvae dies and wasp larvae consumes tissues from pupal case.Visual and sweep netIn crops where hosts are present and riparian native vegetation
Parasitiods of eggs
Trichogramma pretiosum
Trichogrammatoidea Bactra
Wasps lay eggs on the eggs of caterpillars primarily Helicoverpa. Wasps emerge from eggs instead of larvae.Kill hosts before they hatch thus prevent crop damage by larvae. Very small wasps and best way is to find the black parasitised eggsVisual and sweep netIn crops and remnant native vegetation. They are greatly reduced in regions where broad spectrum insecticides are used regularly. Sorghum and maize are good nursery crops over summer while canola and faba beans are the best nursery crops over winter
Parasitoids of green vegetable bugs (GVB)
Trichopoda giacomellii (fly)
Trissolcus bassalis (wasp)Trichopoda
GVB eggs are parasitised by an introduced wasp. Mature and late instar GVB are parasitised by introduced fly.Trissolcus female inserts eggs into GVB eggs. Parasitised eggs turn black. Trichopoda flies lay eggs on GVB body – these hatch and burrow into GVB – feeding on the internal organs and killing host.Visual and sweep netParasitoids occur in all crops frequented by GVB
Parasitoids of whitefly
Encarsia formosa
Eretmocerus hayatiEretmocerus
These wasps target different stages of whitefly development – making them complementary parasitoidsEncarsia lays eggs into 2nd, 3rd and 4th instar stages of whitefly. Wasp larvae feed inside and nymphs turn black. Eretmocerus lays eggs into 1st and 2nd instars and tiny larvae bores into whitefly and releases digestive enzymes when whitefly pupate – dissolving the pest.Visual and sweep netFound in crops as well as native vegetation
Predatory mites
Amblyseius spp
Phytoseiulus persimilis
 snout mite
Two spotted mitesBean mitesThey are voracious on all stages of spider mite. They can use the webbing made by spider mites to access their prey. They can detect kairomones emitted by prey and stay within infested areas or move to nearby infestationsVisual sampling
Suction sampling
Pitfall traps
Crops with dense foliage in humid areas.Note – predatory mites can be purchased for the control of a variety of pests
Red and blue beetles
Dicraolaius bellulusRed and Blue Beetle
Eat eggs and small Helicoverpa larvae, aphids and slow moving insects.Native predatorVisual
Beat sheet
sweep net
Abundant in a range of habitats e.g. gardens bushland and crops.
Shield bugs
Oechalia schellenbergii
Cermatulus nassalisSpined predatory bug Oechalia nymph
Prey on moth larvae e.g. Helicoverpa and loopersShield bug eggs are distinguished by the short spines (‘eyelashes’) around the rim of eggsVisual
Beat sheet
Found on weeds, native vegetation and crops – especially those with moth larvae. All year
Leucopis formosana
Important predator of aphids. Adults feed on honeydew and are not predatoryLarvae look similar to hoverfly larvae and are distinguished by ‘two horns’ at rear of body.Crops and weed hosts. Spring to autumn
Predatory thrips
Scolothrips sexmaculatus
Generalist predators that fed on very small prey such as other thrips, mites and small eggs.Feed by piercing the body and sucking out contentsWidespread and can be found feeding on mites in various crops and native vegetation
Hunting spidersHunting spiderStalk or ambush their prey. They are generalist feeders and eat mirids, moth larvae and soft bodied insectsThe most common hunting spider is the lynx spiderVisual sampling
Suction sampling
Pitfall traps
Spiders are found in most urban and rural habitats. All year
Web building spidersWeb building spiderGeneralist predators targeting a range of flying insect pests e.g. moths, mirids, jassids and whitefly. Many of these spiders will also eat Helicoverpa larvaeThese spiders build large webs between plants and commonly hide under nearby leaves – waiting for insects to become trappedVisual sampling
Suction sampling
Pitfall traps
Bushland remnants are important habitats for these spiders in rural landscapes. All year
Viral Diseases
Nuclear polyhedrosis (NPV)Helicoverpa killed by NPV
Moth larvae – NPV is specific for HelicoverpaLarvae shrivel up. Most effective on small larva < 7mmVisual samplingPresent in soil, disperses from infected larvae. Through spray applications. Note: efficacy is temperature dependant
Bacterial Diseases
Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)caterpillar infected with Bt
Moth larvaeMost effective on small larvaVisual samplingThrough spray applications needed. Present in soil
Fungal diseases
Metarhizium spp.
Beauvaria spp.mirid infected with fungus
Moth larvae, aphids, mirids, grasshoppers. Some are species specificMost effective on small larvae and nymphsVisual sampling – look for fungus on bodies of pest
Nematodes Snails and some caterpillarsThey enter the host body through natural openings and release bacteria that digest the insect. The nematode feeds on the bacteria and insect slurry These tiny worm-like organisms can only be seen under a micrscopeCommercially produced nematodes are available in dehydrated cellulose mixtures – these are rehydrated before use
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