Scientists seek to protect biological controls of pests

By Tom Lollis

Merle Shepard and Martin ShapiroBiological controls reduce dependence on chemical insecticides, but one limiting factor is that they are easily broken down by sunlight. Clemson plant scientists are looking for ways to extend the effective life of these natural pest controls.

Entomologists Merle Shepard and Martin Shapiro are testing organic materials as sunscreens or activity enhancers for a virus that can control the beet armyworm. Viruses are widely used for pest control in developing countries. They do not work as quickly as the insecticides commonly used in the United States, but they target specific pests without harming beneficial insects.

Last year a visiting scientist from the of screened more than 70 potential virus enhancers at Clemson’s Coastal Research and Education Center in Charleston. A high percentage showed promise as virus protectors. Shepard and Shapiro are now screening the efficacy of these products by using various concentration levels and exposure times to ultraviolet rays.

Many of the plant materials are found in the average kitchen, such as ginger, paprika, black pepper, nutmeg and sage. Others are nutraceutical plants such as catnip, garlic, dandelion and slippery elm.

For information: Merle Shepard, 843-402-5393,