, 56:681

Benefits and risks of exotic biological control agents

  • Patrick De Clercq
  • Peter G. Mason
  • Dirk Babendreier

DOI: 10.1007/s10526-011-9372-8

Cite this article as:
De Clercq, P., Mason, P.G. & Babendreier, D. BioControl (2011) 56: 681. doi:10.1007/s10526-011-9372-8


The use of exotic (=alien) arthropods in classical and augmentative biological control programs has yielded huge economic and ecological benefits. Exotic species of arthropods have contributed to the suppression of key pests in agriculture and forestry or have aided in restoring natural systems affected by adventive species. However, adverse non-target effects of exotic biological control agents have been observed in a number of projects. Non-target effects range from very small effects, e.g. 2% parasitization on a non-target insect on a local level, to massive effects on a large scale. Until now, no consensus on how to judge the magnitude of non-target effects and whether these effects can be tolerated or are unacceptable has emerged. In this paper, we briefly review both the benefits of biological control as well as the associated risks including to human and animal health, plant health and particularly the environment. We also make an attempt at identifying the major challenges for assessing risks and for balancing benefits and risks. There is general agreement that sound risk assessment procedures should precede the release of exotic invertebrate biological control agents and a recent shift—especially for arthropod biological control—from introductions done without meaningful risk assessment studies to projects conducting thorough host range testing can be observed. However, overly stringent regulations that would preclude promising agents from being developed must be avoided.


Augmentative biological controlAugmentationClassical biological controlExotic speciesNon-target effectsRisk assessmentRisk-benefit analysis

Copyright information

© International Organization for Biological Control (IOBC) 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick De Clercq
    • 1
  • Peter G. Mason
    • 2
  • Dirk Babendreier
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Crop ProtectionGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  2. 2.Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Research CentreOttawaCanada
  3. 3.CABI Europe-SwitzerlandDelemontSwitzerland