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Pest: Root & Soil

Pest:  Root & Soil

Biological Control of Soil-Dwelling Pests Using Predatory Nematodes, Hypoaspis miles, and Rove Beetles

Biological control is an environmentally friendly and sustainable approach to managing garden and crop pests. This article explores the use of predatory nematodes, Hypoaspis miles (a predatory mite), and rove beetles (Staphylinidae) to control soil-dwelling pests. We will discuss the pests they control, their life cycles, environmental preferences, and how these predators contribute to pest management.

Predatory Nematodes

Pests Controlled: Predatory nematodes, particularly those from the genera Steinernema and Heterorhabditis, are effective against a variety of soil-dwelling pests, including:

  • Root-knot nematodes (Meloidogyne spp.)

  • Fungus gnats (Bradysia spp.)

  • Western flower thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis)

  • Black vine weevil (Otiorhynchus sulcatus)

  • Cutworms and armyworms (Spodoptera spp.)

Lifecycle: Predatory nematodes have a complex lifecycle that includes an infective juvenile stage, which is free-living and seeks out hosts. Once they locate a suitable host, they penetrate it and release symbiotic bacteria that kill the host within 24-48 hours. The nematodes then feed on the bacteria and the decomposing host tissue, reproduce, and eventually release new infective juveniles back into the soil to seek out new hosts.

Control Mechanism:

  • Infection and Reproduction: Infective juveniles locate and enter the host through natural body openings or by directly penetrating the cuticle. Inside the host, they release bacteria that multiply rapidly and kill the host. The nematodes feed on the bacteria and the decaying host tissue, reproduce, and emerge to find new hosts.

  • Persistence: Predatory nematodes can persist in the soil for extended periods, providing long-term pest control.

Temperature and Humidity Preferences:

  • Optimal Temperature: 20-30°C (68-86°F).

  • Tolerance: Can survive in temperatures as low as 10°C (50°F) and as high as 35°C (95°F).

  • Humidity: Require high soil moisture levels and are most effective in environments with a relative humidity of 90% or higher.

Interactions with Hypoaspis miles and Rove Beetles:

  • Predatory nematodes do not typically prey on larger arthropods like Hypoaspis miles or rove beetles due to differences in size and prey preferences.

Hypoaspis miles (Predatory Mite)

Pests Controlled: Hypoaspis miles, also known as Stratiolaelaps scimitus, targets small soil-dwelling pests, including:

  • Fungus gnat larvae (Bradysia spp.)

  • Thrips pupae (Frankliniella spp.)

  • Springtails (Collembola)

  • Root aphids (Pemphigus spp.)

Lifecycle: Hypoaspis miles undergoes a lifecycle consisting of egg, larva, protonymph, deutonymph, and adult stages. The entire lifecycle takes about 18-20 days under optimal conditions. Adult mites live for several weeks and can consume several pest larvae per day.

Control Mechanism:

  • Direct Predation: Hypoaspis miles actively hunt for prey in the soil and litter layer. They use their sharp mouthparts to pierce and consume pest larvae and pupae.

  • Habitat Suitability: They thrive in moist, organic-rich soils where their prey is abundant, making them effective in both garden beds and greenhouse environments.

Temperature and Humidity Preferences:

  • Optimal Temperature: 20-25°C (68-77°F).

  • Tolerance: Can survive and remain active in a broader temperature range of 15-30°C (59-86°F).

  • Humidity: Prefer moderate to high humidity levels, typically between 60-80%.

Interactions with Predatory Nematodes and Rove Beetles:

  • Hypoaspis miles do not target nematodes and are unlikely to prey on rove beetles due to different niches and prey preferences.

Rove Beetles (Staphylinidae)

Pests Controlled: Rove beetles, particularly species such as Atheta coriaria, are effective against:

  • Fungus gnat larvae (Bradysia spp.)

  • Root maggots (Delia spp.)

  • Thrips pupae (Frankliniella spp.)

  • Small caterpillars and other soft-bodied insects

Lifecycle: Rove beetles have a lifecycle that includes egg, larva, pupa, and adult stages. The larval stage is particularly voracious, consuming large numbers of soil-dwelling pests. Adults are long-lived and continue to hunt for pests throughout their lifespan.

Control Mechanism:

  • Active Hunting: Rove beetles are agile predators that actively search for prey in the soil and on the soil surface. Both larvae and adults feed on a wide range of soil-dwelling pests.

  • Adaptability: They are highly adaptable to different soil conditions and can survive in a variety of environments, from greenhouses to outdoor gardens.

Temperature and Humidity Preferences:

  • Optimal Temperature: 18-28°C (64-82°F).

  • Tolerance: Can function effectively in temperatures as low as 10°C (50°F) and as high as 35°C (95°F).

  • Humidity: Prefer moderate humidity levels, around 50-70%.

Interactions with Predatory Nematodes and Hypoaspis miles:

  • Rove beetles do not prey on predatory nematodes or Hypoaspis miles. Their robust exoskeleton and size make them unsuitable prey for nematodes. They focus on larger pests and do not usually target other beneficial predators like mites.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Approach

Using predatory nematodes, Hypoaspis miles, and rove beetles as part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategy enhances pest control by:

  • Reducing Chemical Usage: Biological control agents reduce the need for chemical pesticides, which can harm beneficial insects and the environment.

  • Promoting Biodiversity: Introducing these natural predators increases biodiversity and helps maintain a balanced ecosystem.

  • Sustainable Control: Biological control agents provide sustainable and long-term pest management solutions.

Environmental Considerations

Each of these biological control agents has specific temperature and humidity preferences:

Biological Control Agent

Optimal Temperature Range (°C)

Humidity Preference (%)

Soil Moisture Preference

Predatory Nematodes



High, moist but not waterlogged

Hypoaspis miles



Slightly moist

Rove Beetles



Moderate, well-drained

Aligning environmental conditions with these preferences enhances their effectiveness and ensures sustainable pest management.

Implementing biological control using predatory nematodes, Hypoaspis miles, and rove beetles is an effective and sustainable method to manage soil-dwelling garden and crop pests. Understanding the life cycles, control mechanisms, and environmental preferences of these predators enables gardeners and farmers to optimize their use, leading to healthier plants and reduced reliance on chemical interventions. By utilizing these organisms synergistically, we can foster a more resilient and balanced ecosystem in our gardens and agricultural systems.

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