Evaluation of Beneficial Insect Habitat for Organic Farms

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2004: $72,539.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
David Orr
North Carolina State University

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: general silage crops
  • Vegetables: tomatoes
  • Additional Plants: ornamentals


  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, workshop
  • Natural Resources/Environment: habitat enhancement
  • Pest Management: biological control, cultural control, integrated pest management, prevention
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture


    A study addressing commercial beneficial insect habitats found some seed mixes had variable species composition, reduced germination, and when planted according to supplier recommendations were eliminated by weed competition. A small proportion of insects attracted to habitat plants were natural enemies useful in crop insect management. A number of plant feeding insects were harbored by habitat, and night-flying pest moths were fed by some habitats. A commercial habitat planted around organic tomatoes did not affect parasitism, predation, or pest insect numbers. Habitat plantings did attract parasitic insects, but the flowers themselves did not appear to be responsible for this attraction.

    Project objectives:

    1. To evaluate commercially available beneficial insect seed mixtures for purity, composition, and germination rates.

    2. To monitor the communities of insects, both beneficial and otherwise, attracted to commonly planted cut flowers and cover crops on organic farms

    3. Based on currently available literature, construct and evaluate a simple beneficial insect habitat designed to attract and build populations of Trichogramma wasps and Cotesia congregata, well-known parasitoids of eggs and larvae, respectively, of tomato fruitworms and hornworms.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.