The Conservation Biological Control Short Course

2015 Annual Report for ENE15-137

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2015: $97,097.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2018
Region: Northeast
State: Oregon
Project Leader:
Eric Mader
The Xerces Society

The Conservation Biological Control Short Course


Native, wild insects that attack crop pests are an overlooked resource. Although vast numbers of such beneficial insects are at work on farms across the world, they are eclipsed in farm education by a much smaller diversity of pest species. Yet, as a large body of research now demonstrates, farmers as diverse as apple growers, Christmas tree farmers, and soybean producers across the country are already benefiting from natural pest control. Despite this free service, few farmers know much about the beneficial insects around them, and even fewer know how to increase those beneficial insect populations to maximize their pest control potential.

The Conservation Biological Control Short Course synthesizes the latest research on beneficial insects and offers realistic solutions for enhancing beneficial insect populations on farms. Specific course topics include beneficial insect biology, habitat design for beneficials, pesticide risk mitigation, financial support available through USDA conservation programs, and real-world case studies.

This project, the outgrowth of a 6-year research initiative conducted by the Xerces Society and university research partners, for the first time ever presents conservation biological control as an easy-to-adopt framework for multiple crop systems.

The audience for this project includes IPM specialists, Extension personnel, NRCS conservation planners, Soil and Water Conservation District technicians, state departments of agriculture, crop consultants, and sustainable agriculture organizations.

The project is being promoted through multiple channels, as well as in partnership with relevant agencies and state SARE Coordinators. Qualitative and quantitative post-course feedback from participants is being used to improve subject matter delivery on an ongoing basis.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Through this 3-year project, 120 educators and farm agency professionals in 12 Northeastern states who participate in the Conservation Biological Control Short Course will teach or advise 480 farmers managing a total of 2,400 acres about recommended conservation biological control strategies including habitat creation or enhancement and pesticide risk mitigation.


The Xerces Society has begun planning for the Conservation Biological Control Short Course in the Northeast SARE states and delivered our project’s first short course in Rhode Island in September 2015. Our progress related to our Year 1 milestones is described below.

1. Audience in first four states receives course announcements, September 2015

Course announcements for the Rhode Island Conservation Biological Control Short Course were sent in the summer of 2015. We are currently planning for the delivery of the short course in three additional Northeast SARE states. The following tasks have been initiated.

  • Finalizing course curriculum for each of the six 45-minute modules that constitute the Conservation Biological Control Short Course;
  • Identifying potential locations for upcoming courses in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania;
  • Scheduling a second short course in Rhode Island;
  • Confirming the availability of invited guest lecturers and locally based research partners;
  • Refining our administrative systems for course promotion and registration.

Announcements for courses in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania will be distributed in the winter of 2016.

2. 120 providers attend one of four short courses; 108 indicate intention to change, November 2015–January 2016

On September 9, 2015, we conducted a short course at the University of Rhode Island East Farm in Kingston, Rhode Island. We targeted the NRCS staff in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, as well as conservation partners at the Soil and Water Conservation Service, Cooperative Extension, and local nonprofits for this training. Thirty people attended, including 14 agricultural support staff.

As part of this short course, we conducted an in-depth field-based habitat assessment training. Other highlights included an in-field native wildflower and beneficial insect identification session and a tour of demonstration cover cropping systems that are integrating beneficial insect conservation practices into cover crop management practices.

For this course, 21 out of 30 participants completed the day-of-course evaluations, and 67% of respondents (14 of 21) reported increased understanding of the diversity of native beneficials and their lifecycles, and 76% of participants (16 of 21) reported increased knowledge conducting native plant restoration to improve populations of beneficial insects.

Among the 10 agricultural support staff who responded to the day-of-course evaluation, 90% (9 of 10) said that the Conservation Biological Control Short Course changed how they would advise farmers about farm management practices to support beneficial insects. Course participants planned to advise farmers to consider pesticide impacts on beneficial insects in pest control decisions; adjust management practices to increase beneficial insect numbers; provide additional habitat resources for beneficial insects; and/or encourage enrollment in NRCS conservation programs for beneficial insects.

The course was very well received, and the Xerces Society was invited to conduct another short course at the University of Rhode Island this winter. This course is scheduled for February 11, 2016.

Courses in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania are also planned for spring 2016. At these courses, we intend to reach more than 100 agricultural support staff, as well as farmers, IPM specialists, state departments of agriculture, sustainable agriculture organizations, and other conservation practitioners.

3. 40 providers incorporate content into work with 160 farmers managing at least 800 acres, November 2015–October 2016

Follow-up surveys will ask agricultural support staff how they have incorporated course content into their work with farmers, and the number of acres they have affected.

4. 42 providers complete follow-up survey, November 2016–February 2017

Follow-up surveys will be distributed to course participants during the fall of 2016 and winter of 2017.


Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes


Thelma Heidel-Baker
IPM Specialist
The Xerces Society
628 NE Broadway, STE 200
Portland, OR 97232
Office Phone: 5032326639
Jennifer Hopwood
Senior Pollinator Conservation Specialist
The Xerces Society
628 NE Broadway, STE 200
Portland, OR 97232
Office Phone: 5032326639
Kelly Gill
Pollinator Conservation Specialist
The Xerces Society
628 NE Broadway, STE 200
Portland, OR 97232
Office Phone: (503) 232-6639