Science into practice - Earwig-safe crop protection

Earwigs are important generalist predators in apple and pear orchards. They play a key part in regulating populations of several highly damaging pests including woolly and other aphid pests, mussel scale, codling moth and pear sucker. Recent research in the UK and Europe has indicated that several commonly used crop-protection products have harmful effects on earwigs in orchards.

AHDB Horticulture Project TF 220 "Further development of earwig-safe spray programmes for apple and pear orchards" is investigating how to integrate key crop- protection products into pest-management programmes without causing harm to earwig populations in the orchard at NIAB EMR.

In the first two years of the project, laboratory and field trial experiments were done to assess the effects of acetamaprid (Gazelle), thiacloprid (Calypso), abamectin (Agrimec) or spirodiclofen (Envidor) on earwig survival, growth, population increase and fecundity, compared with a water-only control.

The results so far suggest that an occasional application of Gazelle, or potentially Calypso, to control early-season pests is unlikely to have long-term effects on earwig populations if earwig numbers are already high in the orchard and the application is made in response to pest thresholds as part of an IPM programme. Further research in 2016 will test the use of Envidor, Calypso and Agrimec in pear orchards in the early and mid-growing season.

Building up earwig populations in orchards by selective use of crop-protection products will firstly increase natural control of many major orchard pests but secondly allow occasional sprays of more earwig-harmful products when they are needed to control early-spring or sporadic pests.

The full grower summary for Project TF 220 and details on all AHDB Horticulture activity can be found on the AHDB Horticulture website - horticulture.ahdb.org.uk.


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