Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/698

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By C. V. RILEY, Ph. D.

THE importance to man, and especially to the horticulturist, of the parasitic and predaceous insect enemies of such species as injure vegetation has been recognized by almost all writers on economic entomology. Indeed, it is a question whether the earlier writers did not attach too much importance to them, because while in the abstract they are all essential to keep the plant-feeding species in proper check, and without them these last would unquestionably be far more difficult to manage, yet in the long run our worst insect enemies are not materially affected by them, and the cases where we can artificially encourage the multiplication of the beneficial species are relatively few. While fully appreciating the importance of the subject, therefore, it is my purpose in this paper to point out the dangers and disadvantages resulting from false and exaggerated notions upon it.

There are but two methods by which these insect friends of the farmer can be effectually utilized and encouraged, as, for the most part, they perform their work unseen and unheeded by him, and are practically beyond his control. These methods consist in the intelligent protection of those species which already exist in a given locality, and in the introduction of desirable species which do not already exist there.

In a few cases like this there is no reason why the farmer should not be taught with advantage to discriminate between his friends and his foes, and to encourage the multiplication of the former; but, for the most part, the nicer discrimination as to the beneficial species, some of the most important of which are microscopically small, must be left to the trained entomologist. Few of the men practically engaged in agriculture and horticulture can follow the more or less technical characterization of these beneficial species, and where the discriminating knowledge is possessed it can, as just intimated, only exceptionally be turned to practical account.

In other cases much good may be done without any special knowledge of the beneficial forms, but as a result of a knowledge of the special facts, which enable the farmer materially to encourage the multiplication of parasitic species while destroying the plant-feeding host. Very good illustrations of this kind of work are afforded by the rascal leaf-crumpler and the common bag worm, both of which in the larva state live in cases, and

  1. Condensed from a paper read before the Association of Economic Entomologists at Madison, Wis., August 15, 1893.