An up close encounter with beneficial bugs at the oldest commercial insectary in the United States.

A grower-owned cooperative founded in 1928, Associates Insectary provides complete Integrated Pest Management Services to California's Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, where the use of beneficial predators like Cryptolaemus montrouzieri, Anagyrus pseudococci, Aphytis melinus, Neoseiulus californicus, and Rumina decollata has helped to greatly reduce the amount of pesticides needed to produce high quality crops in the southern California coastal area.

A grower-owned cooperative founded in 1928, Associates Insectary provides complete Integrated Pest Management Services to California’s Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, where the use of beneficial predators like Cryptolaemus montrouzieri, Anagyrus pseudococci, Aphytis melinus, Neoseiulus Californicus, and Rumina decollata has helped to greatly reduce the amount of pesticides needed to produce high quality crops in the southern California coastal area.

Over two million beneficial organisms are produced [born] @ the Santa Paula facility each day, and while most of the beneficials that they produce are used by their Grower-Members, significant quantities are regularly shipped to locations throughout the United States and internationally. They are the only producer of Mealybug Destroyer beetles in the United States – other companies ship theirs in from outside the U.S.

Over two million beneficial organisms are produced [born] @ the Santa Paula facility each day, and while most of the beneficials that they produce are used by their Grower-Members, significant quantities are regularly shipped to locations throughout the United States and internationally. They are the only producer of Mealybug Destroyer beetles in the United States – other companies ship theirs in from outside the U.S.

Thousands of individual California red scale insects in their “baby” stage are sprinkled over squash at Associates Insectary.

Thousands of individual California red scale insects in their “baby” stage are sprinkled over squash at Associates Insectary.

The parasitic Persea mite is a major pest of California avocado farms, causing premature leaf drop. The defoliation contributes to sunburned bark, aborted fruit, and severely stressed trees. To control Persea mites and return yield, Neoseiulus californicus is an efficient solution. In recent university experiments, this quick-moving mite has been identified as a good predator of Persea mites.

The parasitic Persea mite is a major pest of California avocado farms, causing premature leaf drop. The defoliation contributes to sunburned bark, aborted fruit, and severely stressed trees. To control Persea mites and return yield, Neoseiulus californicus is an efficient solution. In recent university experiments, this quick-moving mite has been identified as a good predator of Persea mites.

Beneficial Cryptolaemus beetles, also known as “mealybug destroyers,” rest on a screen before they are collected at Associates Insectary in Santa Paula.

Bill Grant, division manager at A.I. collects beneficial Cryptolaemus beetles, also known as “mealybug destroyers,” into a tube. The beetles eat the vine mealy bugs when they are still young.

Vials filled with thousands of the beneficial Cryptolaemus beetles, also known as “mealybug destroyers.”

Vials filled with thousands of the beneficial Cryptolaemus beetles, also known as “mealybug destroyers.”

Where wasps are harvested.

Where wasps are harvested.

This building was built in 1928 and was designed to fit a Model-T. The Model-T would drive through and stop at each door in order to collect the beneficial organisms which would then be delivered to farms throughout Ventura & Santa Barbara Counties.

This building was built in 1928 and was designed to fit a Model-T. The Model-T would drive through and stop at each door in order to collect the beneficial organisms which would then be delivered to farms throughout Ventura & Santa Barbara Counties.

Fly strips collect invading insects that could possibly contaminate or even destroy the beneficial organisms that are harvested @Associates Insectary.

Fly strips collect invading insects that could possibly contaminate or even destroy the beneficial organisms that are harvested @ Associates Insectary.

When it comes to controlling insects and other agricultural pests, there’s nothing more natural than using natural enemies to do the job for you. Using beneficial insects, mites, and snails as part of an Integrated Pest Management Program helps control infestations while lowering the use of pesticides and preserving the environment. Beneficial organisms are especially advantageous in closed environments like nurseries and greenhouses or within interiorscapes, where the use of pesticides is especially undesirable.

When it comes to controlling insects and other agricultural pests, there’s nothing more natural than using natural enemies to do the job for you. Using beneficial insects, mites, and snails as part of an Integrated Pest Management Program helps control infestations while lowering the use of pesticides and preserving the environment. Beneficial organisms are especially advantageous in closed environments like nurseries and greenhouses or within interiorscapes, where the use of pesticides is especially undesirable. In 2010, they started producing Anagyrus pseudococci, the preferred parasitoid for vine mealybug.

Citrus mealybugs, which are used as a food source for the beneficial Cryptolaemus beetle and are similar to vine mealybugs, are raised on potato shoots.

Citrus mealybugs, which are used as a food source for the beneficial Cryptolaemus beetle and are similar to vine mealybugs, are raised on potato shoots.

Aren't they cute?

Aren’t they cute?

No famine here.

No famine here.

Before - Potato shoots prior to the Citrus mealybug invasion.

Before – Potato shoots prior to the Citrus mealybug invasion.

After - The beetles, which the insectary has been rearing since it was founded in 1928, may help play a role in combating vine mealybug infestations in the vineyards of California. Very good news to all the winos out there.

After – The beetles, which the insectary has been rearing since it was founded in 1928, may help play a role in combating vine mealybug infestations in the vineyards of California. Very good news to all the winos out there.

Brett Chandler, president and general manager of A.I. shows us one of the harvesting rooms.

Brett Chandler, president and general manager of A.I. shows us one of the harvesting rooms.

Due to the drought, there were no snails on today's tour.

Due to the drought, there were no snails on today’s tour.

Look ma, no protection.

Look ma, no protection.

Thanks Okies. My people risked their lives to grow your produce.

Thanks Okies. My people risked their lives to grow your produce.

Come on in and see what kind of creepy crawlies we have for you in here.

Come on in and see what kind of creepy crawlies we have for you in here.

Squash Prep

Squash Prep

Stung/Infested

Stung/Infested

Squash Room

Squash Room

Bugs, bugs, everywhere!

Bugs, bugs, everywhere!

A soft-bristle brush will be used to collect the yellow “dust” on the paper below which is actually thousands of individual California red scale insects that, in their “baby” stage, are sprinkled over the squash.

A soft-bristle brush will be used to collect the yellow “dust” on the paper below which is actually thousands of individual California red scale insects that, in their “baby” stage, are sprinkled over the squash.

As they mature, the insects become hosts to the parasitic wasps Aphytis melinus, which are reared at the insectary.

As they mature, the insects become hosts to the parasitic wasps Aphytis melinus, which are reared at the insectary.

A container filled with tiny parasitic wasps called Aphytis melinus. Company officials hope that their success in rearing this wasp will translate into success with doing the same with another beneficial wasp, Anagyrus pseudococci.

A container filled with tiny parasitic wasps called Aphytis melinus. Company officials hope that their success in rearing this wasp will translate into success with doing the same with another beneficial wasp, Anagyrus pseudococci.

Bill Grant has worked at the co-op for over 48 years. Cray.

Bill Grant has worked at the co-op for over 48 years. Cray.

Lima Bean mite action.

Lima Bean mite action.

Welcome to the greenhouse...

Welcome to the greenhouse…

...where it's always a cool 102 degrees inside. Make sure you don't contaminate it by bringing in any mites or mealybug destroyers please.

…where it’s always a cool 102 degrees inside. Make sure you don’t contaminate it by bringing in any mites or mealybug destroyers please.