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Home>FFTC Document Database>Extension Bulletins>Biological Control of Insect Pests in Japan a. Control of Multiple Pests of Tea, and Spider Mites in Greenhouses
Biological Control of Insect Pests in Japan a. Control of Multiple Pests of Tea, and Spider Mites in Greenhouses
Akio Takafuji and Hiroshi AmanoLaboratory of Applied Entomology and Zoology, Faculty of Horticulture,
Chiba University, Matsudo 271-8510, Japan, 2001-08-01


In Japan, there is growing public concern about the excessive use of agricultural chemicals. Growers have become interested in the use of natural enemies in pest management programs. This paper introduces two examples of pest management using natural enemies in Japan. In the production of tea, there is the problem of controlling multiple pest species that occur simultaneously. The use of a predacious phytoseiid mite, Amblyseius womersleyi, which was resistant to synthetic pyrethroids, was found to be very effective in suppressing populations of spider mites while the pyrethroid sprays were applied which were necessary to control two sucking pests. In the second example, the release of the phytoseiid mite Phytoseiulus persimilis onto ground cover in a greenhouse where grape vines were grown was effective in suppressing the population of spider mites. This prevented their migration onto the grape vines.

Abstract in Other Language: 한국어(1077)

Biological Control in Japan

Japan has lagged behind other developed countries in the practice of biological control. Although many experiments have been carried out, the commercial use of natural enemies has only just started. In the early 1970s, one chemical company began the commercial production of a wasp for the control of scale insects on apple, but after three years this product was discontinued. It was only five years ago that Phytoseiulus persimilis, a predatory mite used all over the world for the control of spider mites, was approved for commercial use in Japan. Table 1(1032) lists the natural enemies so far registered as commercial bio-pesticides in Japan. Many of the agents are imported, and most are used for controlling pests in greenhouses made of glass or plastic.

There are several reasons why biological control has not been widely adopted by farmers in Japan. First, Japanese consumers tend to buy only agricultural products with an excellent appearance, particularly fruits. Furthermore, in order to compete with low-cost imported products, many growers are forced to focus on high-quality products. These are often used as special gifts rather than for daily consumption. Most farms are small, and growers must secure a constant yield and income. These pressures force them to spray chemicals to avoid any risk of pest injury.

Another factor that underlies their reluctance to adopt biological control is the environment. Japan in summer has a warm, humid climate, with a wide range of environmental conditions. As a result, key pests are many and varied. Thus, in order to cope with the multiple pest problems by biological control alone, it would be necessary for growers to use several natural enemies in combination. However, such a strategy is not yet ready for application.

In spite of these problems, farmers' reliance on chemicals has been declining in recent years. There is a strong demand by consumers for agricultural products grown with few or no chemicals. Also, many farmers are now aware of the dangers of excessive chemicals. Many groups of farmers are trying to replace chemicals with natural enemies or organic pesticides. There has thus been a growing interest over the past few years in biological control and IPM.

In this paper, we would like to introduce two examples of the use of natural enemies in Japan. One is in tea fields, where growers are facing multiple-pest problems, and where the release of pesticide-resistant predators was effective in controlling spider mites.

The other is in a plastic greenhouse producing grapes. Predacious mites were released, not onto the vines, but onto the ground cover in the greenhouse. This suppressed spider mites living on the ground cover, thereby preventing them from invading the grape vines and multiplying on them.

Ipm in Tea Fields Using Predacious Mites Which Are Resistant to Synthetic Pyrethroids

Table 2(1095) shows how frequently chemicals are sprayed in tea plantations in central Japan (Takafuji et al. 2000). Injury from disease is not serious in tea. The main pests are two species of tea tortrix, the Kanzawa spider mite, the yellow tea thrips and the tea green leafhopper. Each year, growers spray more than 20 times. (Each spray may include more than two chemicals. In such cases, this is counted as two sprays). Spray programs of this kind have long been typical of tea plantations in central Japan.

However, there is a strong demand among consumers for tea produced without pesticides. Moreover, serious groundwater pollution as the result of excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides has become an issue in tea-growing areas. In response to these problems, some groups of tea growers have started producing tea using no chemicals at all, or only very small amounts. A premium price is now paid for "organic" tea, and the number of organic tea growers is increasing.

In tea fields in central Japan, several insect pests and mite pests occur together. Tea growers have to control multiple pests at the same time. Mating disruption methods using sex pheromones have successfully suppressed populations of the two tea tortrixes, Adoxophyes honmai and Homona magnanima. The Kanzawa spider mite, Tetranychus kanzawai, is now potentially the most serious pest. In the past, it was well controlled by acaricides, or naturally suppressed by the predation of the organophosphate-resistant phytoseiid mite, Amblyseius womersleyi. This natural control disappeared with the introduction of synthetic pyrethroid (SP) pesticides, which are highly toxic to natural enemies, including the predacious mite.

Synthetic pyrethroids are used on tea fields to control two sucking pests, the yellow tea thrips, Scirtothrips dorsalis and the tea green leafhopper, Empoasca onukii. These sucking pests attack new buds of tea, causing serious deterioration in the quality of the leaves. No effective natural enemies are known, and most pesticides are not very effective. Thus, growers tend to rely on the SPs, which are highly effective against sucking pests.

However, the SPs are non-selective and have a long-lasting toxic effect. They kill natural enemies of T. kanzawai, including A. womersleyi. This may result in an outbreak or resurgence of the spider mite.

Mochizuki (2000) found that at a few tea plantations in central Japan, populations of A. womersleyi were suppressing Kanzawa spider mites even after they were sprayed with SPs ( Fig. 1(1015)). A laboratory assay confirmed that these strains of A. womersleyi were highly tolerant of SPs, as well as of organophosphates ( Table 3(1197)) (Mochizuki 1990, 1999).

However, laboratory selection for higher tolerance gave only a slight increase in resistance. Furthermore, the resistance was not stable. Susceptibility to SPs returned when the selection was stopped (Mochizuki 1997). This indicates that adequate (limited) SP spraying will be necessary to maintain the SP-resistance of these populations of A. womersleyi, as well as to suppress sucking pests.

Controlled field experiments (Mochizuki 2000) indicated that the release of SP-resistant strains of A. womersleyi, together with adequate SP spraying, effectively suppressed both T. kanzawai and the two sucking insect pests ( Fig. 1(1015) and Fig. 2(1060)).

There remain some problems. In order to release the SP-resistant strain of A. womersleyi into tea fields, it must first be mass produced. Furthermore, the resistance of A. womersleyi is maintained only by SP spraying, which is not desirable for the management of other natural enemies.

The Release of the Predacious Mite, Phytoseius Persimilis, Onto Ground Vegetation beneath Greenhouse Grapes

There are many examples all over the world of successful control of spider mites using Phytoseius persimilis. Nevertheless, there are also a considerable number of unsuccessful trials, which are often not published or reported. It is important to clarify under what conditions the predators successfully suppress spider mites. Unsucessful spider mite control using P. persimilis may be the result of several factors. Fig. 3(1032) shows how a combination of temperature and relative humidity affects the activity of P. persimilis. It is evident that the activity of the predators is severely hindered by a high temperature, particularly if this is combined with low humidity.

The physical structure of the host plant also affects whether the predator will become established. It is widely recognized that P. persimilis is unlikely to settle on tall host plants, such as woody plants.

Thus, although P. persimilis is certainly one of the most successful predators, the conditions under which it is effective are limited. For example, many greenhouses in Japan are small, and inside temperatures often exceed 35 °C in summer. This is likely to reduce the activity of the predators. The dislike of P. persimilis for tall hosts means that this predator cannot be used to control spider mites on tall fruit trees such as pear and peach.

Spider mites in deciduous fruit tree orchards in Japan usually overwinter on ground vegetation. In the spring, they first increase their populations on the vegetation, and then move onto fruit trees.

Although P. persimilis does not do well on tall fruit trees, if we introduce the predator onto groundcover, it may eliminate spider mites before they migrate onto fruit trees. Takahashi et al. (1998) released P. persimilis onto grass growing in a vinyl house planted in grape (1,000 m 2) in an attempt to control spider mites. Two releases of P. persimilis (a total of 8,000 ), one in late May and one in early June, reduced the spider-mite population on the ground cover almost to extinction by early July. Throughout July (the most important season for fruit growth), without spraying any chemicals, the spider-mite density was held at 10% of that found in the control grape orchard where no predators had been released ( Fig. 4(1123)). A similar release of predators onto ground cover would also be feasible in orchards of other fruits such as pear and persimmon.

Thus, the release of P. persimilis onto ground cover is effective in preventing spider mites from migrating onto fruit trees, if the predator is released at the appropriate time. Our experiments showed that if the release was too late, the spider mites migrated onto trees in large numbers before the predators became abundant. If the release was too early, the predators failed to become established because of the low density of prey.

Control was unsuccessful in one year, when there was an unexpected outbreak of the stinkbug, Halyomorpha misa. This invaded the greenhouse in large numbers. Chemical spraying was unavoidable, and killed all the P. persimilis. Another problem was that although the number of T. kanzawai was kept to low levels by release of the predator, there was an outbreak of eriophyid mites on some grape leaves over the summer. We think that perhaps releasing Amblyseius sojaensis onto the vines will give effective control of these mites.

Possibility That P. Persimilis Will Become Established in Japan

We assessed the damage to the ecosystem that may result from the introduction of P. persimilis. This species has already been released several times in Japan. However, there is no evidence that it has become established.

Fig. 5(1555) compares the climatic conditions of three parts of Japan with those in areas where P. persimilis originated, and those where it has been introduced and become established. Its current distribution in Australia, New Zealand and California may be due to intentional or unintentional introduction.

In areas where the predator originated, such as Casablanca in Morocco and Lima in Peru, the seasonal range of both temperature and humidity is very limited. Winters are mild and fairly humid. Areas where the predators have become established have similar climatic conditions, although their climate is drier.

In contrast, both temperature and humidity fluctuate greatly and the winters are very dry in Kyoto and Shizuoka, both in Honshu. The town of Naha in Okinawa has a climate similar to the areas where the predators are distributed, but its summer is much hotter. It would appear that the establishment of P. persimilis in Japan is not likely, mainly because of the cold, dry winters.


  • Mochizuki, M. 1990. A strain of the predatory mite Amblyseius longispinosus (Evans) resistant to permethrin, developing in the tea plantation of Shizuoka Prefecture (Acarina: Phytoseiidae). Japanese Journal of Applied Entomology and Zoology 34: 171-174. (In Japanese with English summary).
  • Mochizuki, M. 1997. Permethrin resistance and stability in the predatory mite, Amblyseius womersleyi Schicha (Acari: Pytoseiidae). Japanese Journal of Applied Entomology and Zoology 41: 1-5. (In Japanese with English Summary).
  • Mochizuki, M. 1999. Selection of synthetic-pyrethroid-resistant strains of Amblyseius womersleyi Schicha (Acari: Phytoseiidae) by repeated insecticide application in small tea fields and implications for tea pest management. Fourth International Symposium on Population Dynamics of Plant-Inhabiting Mites, Kyoto, Japan Abstract, p.17.
  • Mochizuki, M. 2000. Studies on the utilization of pesticide-resistant Amblyseius womersleyi for the IPM on tea. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, Kyoto University, Japan. (In Japanese).
  • Mori. 1993. Biopesticide - the ecology and the utiliation of Phytoseiulus persimilis -. Nihon Shokubutsu Boeki Kyokai, Tokyo. 130 pp. (In Japanese).
  • Takafuji, A., A. Ozawa, H. Nemoto and T. Gotoh. 2000. Spider mites of Japan: Their biology and control. Experimental and Applied Acarology 24: 319-335.
  • Takahashi, F., M. Inoue and A. Takafuji. 1998. Management of the spider-mite population in a vinylhouse vinery by releasing Phytoseiulus persimilis Athias-Henriot onto the ground cover. Japanese Journal of Applied Entomology and Zoology 42: 71-76. (In Japanese with English summary)

Index of Images

Figure 1 Population Density of<I> T. Kanzawai</I> and Its Predator, <I>a. Womersleyi,</I> in Tea Fields Sprayed with Synthetic Pyrethroids (Mochizuki, 2000)  

Figure 1 Population Density of T. Kanzawai and Its Predator, a. Womersleyi, in Tea Fields Sprayed with Synthetic Pyrethroids (Mochizuki, 2000)

Figure 2 Changes in the Number of Sucking Pests Captured by Beating after Spraying with Two Types of Pesticide, Synthetic Pyrethroids ( ) and Conventional ( )  

Figure 2 Changes in the Number of Sucking Pests Captured by Beating after Spraying with Two Types of Pesticide, Synthetic Pyrethroids ( ) and Conventional ( )

Figure 3 Activity of <I>P. Persimilis</I> in Relation to Temperature and Relative Humidity

Figure 3 Activity of P. Persimilis in Relation to Temperature and Relative Humidity

Figure 4 Proportion of Mite-Infested Leaves (Above) and the Average Number of Adult Females of <I>T. Kanzawai</I> Per Leaf (below) in Two Grape Orchards (One in Which <I>P. Persimilis</I> Had Been Released and the Control)  

Figure 4 Proportion of Mite-Infested Leaves (Above) and the Average Number of Adult Females of T. Kanzawai Per Leaf (below) in Two Grape Orchards (One in Which P. Persimilis Had Been Released and the Control)

Figure 5 Comparison of the Climatic Conditions in Three Areas of Japan, with Those in Areas Where<I> P. Persimilis </I>Originated or Where It Was Introduced and Became Established. the Graphs Show Seasonal Fluctuations in Temperature and Relative Humidity.

Figure 5 Comparison of the Climatic Conditions in Three Areas of Japan, with Those in Areas Where P. Persimilis Originated or Where It Was Introduced and Became Established. the Graphs Show Seasonal Fluctuations in Temperature and Relative Humidity.

Table 1 Natural Enemies Registered As &Quot;Bio-Pesticides&Quot; for Commercial Use in Japan  

Table 1 Natural Enemies Registered As &Quot;Bio-Pesticides&Quot; for Commercial Use in Japan

Table 2 Number of Chemical Sprays Per Year on Tea in Shizuoka (Central Japan)  

Table 2 Number of Chemical Sprays Per Year on Tea in Shizuoka (Central Japan)

Table 3 Susceptibility of the Shizuoka Populations of <I>a. Womersleyi</I> to the SP Pesticide Permethrin (20%, W.P.)

Table 3 Susceptibility of the Shizuoka Populations of a. Womersleyi to the SP Pesticide Permethrin (20%, W.P.)

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