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It’s a bug’s life


Our local “Bug Man”, Lachlan Chilman has dedicated the last nine years to breeding beneficial bugs in his commercial insectarium
in the Northern Valleys.

These microscopic bugs are making a big difference to the strawberry and capsicum horticultural industry in Australia.

When he started out, only about 5% of the industry was using IPM (Integrated Pest Management) for pest control to fight thrips and Two Spotted Mites without chemicals, including our local strawberry grower Anthony Yewars from Berry Sweet. Today about 80% of the strawberry industry use predatory bugs. Lachlan’s business, Manchil IPM Services, has about 65% of the Australian market.

In a world where there are literally billions of insects it would be easy to become distracted chasing the next big bug. However Lachlan remains focussed. He is only breeding predators for Thrips & Two Spotted Mites and services the Strawberry industry and Capsicum industry within Australia.

The small but mighty Persimilis is the predatory bug used to control Two Spotted Mites. Greenhouses full of lush climbing beans create the perfect environment to firstly cultivate the pest. The predators are then introduced, feeding and breeding as they go.

When ready, they are ‘harvested’, chilled (to stop them eating each other), bottled along with vermiculite for easy distribution, and sent via Australia Post.

It is also reassuring to know, that this form of biological control also has no risk, according to Lachlan, “The predators are cannibalistic, so once they have eaten the pest they then eat themselves. It is not like a cane toad, there is no risk that this biological agent would get out of control.”

Across the globe there is increasing evidence of the negative effects of chemicals on bees and now potentially native birds. The importance of biological control maybe the key to sustainable agriculture.

Lachlan says, “Bio control for horticulture is still very young in Australia – overseas in Europe 90% of the crops use Bio control. Chemicals are still very dominant in Australia.”