Improving Natural Enemy Selection in Biological Control through Greater Attention to Chemical Ecology and Host-Associated Differentiation of Target Arthropod Pests. Academic Article uri icon


  • Host-associated differentiation (HAD) refers to cases in which genetically distinct populations of a species (e.g., herbivores or natural enemies) preferentially reproduce or feed on different host species. In agroecosystems, HAD often results in unique strains or biotypes of pest species, each attacking different species of crops. However, HAD is not restricted to pest populations, and may cascade to the third trophic level, affecting host selection by natural enemies, and ultimately leading to HAD within natural enemy species. Natural enemy HAD may affect the outcomes of biological control efforts, whether classical, conservation, or augmentative. Here, we explore the potential effects of pest and natural enemy HAD on biological control in agroecosystems, with emphases on current knowledge gaps and implications of HAD for selection of biological control agents. Additionally, given the importance of semiochemicals in mediating interactions between trophic levels, we emphasize the role of chemical ecology in interactions between pests and natural enemies, and suggest areas of consideration for biological control. Overall, we aim to jump-start a conversation concerning the relevance of HAD in biological control by reviewing currently available information on natural enemy HAD, identifying challenges to incorporating HAD considerations into biological control efforts, and proposing future research directions on natural enemy selection and HAD.

published proceedings

  • Insects

author list (cited authors)

  • Thompson, M. N., Medina, R. F., Helms, A. M., & Bernal, J. S.

complete list of authors

  • Thompson, Morgan N||Medina, Raul F||Helms, Anjel M||Bernal, Julio S

publication date

  • February 2022