The history of how many insects were spread to the United States also is discussed. For example, in 1869, the gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) arrived in Medford, Mass., from Europe when the French naturalist Leopold Trouvelot brought them to use in silk culture experiments. A few escaped as caterpillars and their descendants thrived, leading to rampant defoliation 20 years later.
Such destruction has led people to devise various methods to exterminate bad bugs.
"The least creative way to get rid of bad bugs is by using insecticides," Waldbauer said. Biological control, a practice in which natural predators are introduced, is a more creative and effective way to control pests, he said. In the book, Waldbauer explains many historic and recent examples of how people control pests without insecticides.
For example, in 1886, the cottony cushion scale (Icerya purchasi), accidentally imported from Australia, threatened California's early citrus industry. At times these pests, whose sucking beaks are permanently attached to and suck juice out of leaves, infested trees so densely that the trees appeared to be covered with snow.
Introduction of 129 Australian ladybird beetles (Rodolia cardinalis), a natural predator of the scale, to a Los Angeles orange grove destroyed almost all of the pests within six months. "By the end of 1889, the scale was no longer a threat anywhere in California," Waldbauer wrote.
Waldbauer also recounted a more recent study in which tsetse flies were feasting on and causing infections in cows in Zimbabwe. Entomologists led by Steve Torr of the University of Greenwich in the United Kingdom placed 60,000 fake cows made of cloth and steeped in insecticide on cattle ranches. Instances of infections dropped from 10,000 to 50 p
Contact: Jim Barlow, Life Sciences Editor
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign