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

    Proposal abstract:

    Evaluation of Beneficial Insect Habitat on Organic Farms

    In 2000, N.G. Creamer and T. Kleese conducted a survey of North and South Carolina organic growers asking what their top ten research needs were. Survey results indicated the number one response was "insect pests". When growers were asked to prioritize research needs for resolving insect pest problems, beneficial insects and beneficial insect habitat were their first and second choices. This proposal aims to study the value of beneficial insect habitats that are increasingly being employed by growers on organic farms in the South. There are few data to support farmers in their attempts to increase natural control of pest insects, resulting in a scarcity of guidelines. Some growers are developing their own beneficial insect habitat based on anecdotal information, while others are turning to purchased habitat seed mixtures. While these commercial mixtures appear to offer some of the life sustaining resources needed by beneficial insects there are no data demonstrating seed quality, growth, beneficial insect attraction, or value to nearby crops in the southern United States. The objectives of this proposed project are to 1) examine the purity, germination and on-farm growth characteristics of these commercial seed blends; 2) determine what insects (beneficial or otherwise) are attracted to select cut flower crops, cover crops, and commercial beneficial seed blends, and 3) to construct and evaluate a simple beneficial insect habitat based on existing literature.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    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.