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Research study focuses on predatory insects used as biological control in high tunnels

SIMPSON, Ill. – Releasing insects into high tunnels filled with fresh produce may seem counterproductive, but that’s exactly what is being done through a research study with Extension Specialist and University of Illinois Specialty Crops Entomologist Kacie Athey. The project was highlighted at a recent twilight meeting at the Dixon Springs Agricultural Center

Spider mites, aphids, and thrips are some of the most common pests that can attack high tunnel plants. For most growers, infestations are treated through insecticides or other chemical control methods. Through the study, predatory insects like lady beetles, Orius, or predatory mites are released into the high tunnels as biological controls. The beneficial insects act as natural enemies that feed upon harmful pests that infest high tunnels. Sticky traps are also placed throughout the high tunnel to capture and assess the insect communities within high tunnels. The study is made possible through an Extension Collaboration grant, and it is also being conducted at the Student Sustainable Student Farm near the University of Illinois campus in Urbana. The preliminary data will help determine if biological controls help to control the pests within high tunnel systems.

Over the course of the evening, Local Foods and Small Farms Educator Bronwyn Aly also shared information on a tomato fertility trial that is being conducted within the high tunnels. The twilight series continues throughout the summer, with the next meeting scheduled for July 12 at Baebler Educational Farm in Waterloo on no-till tomato and pepper production. To learn more or register, visit To register by phone, call 618-695-2441.

University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate, please contact Bronwyn Aly at  Early requests are strongly encouraged to allow sufficient time to meet your needs.

SOURCE: Bronwyn Aly, Local Food Systems and Small Farms Educator, University of Illinois Extension,, 618-695-2441

                  Kacie Athey, Specialty Crops Entomologist, University of Illinois,, 217-244-9916

WRITER: Heather Willis, marketing and communications coordinator,, 618-357-2126

ABOUT EXTENSION:  Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.