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Garden Allies: Pathogens

Articles: Garden Allies: Pathogens

Raising caterpillars in an enclosed environment until they emerge as butterflies is a delightful pursuit. By protecting caterpillars from predators and parasitoids that can decimate their numbers, a far greater success rate than would occur in the wild can be achieved. Success, that is, until the caterpillar tender makes the gruesome discovery of an enclosure full of limp, black caterpillars hanging from the leaves!

[pullquote] Beset from all sides by bacteria, viruses, fungi...it is remarkable that any insects survive.[/pullquote]

Three principal agents act on populations of insects to reduce their numbers: predators, parasitoids, and pathogens. Pathogens are defined as disease-producing microorganisms that slow growth, reduce reproductive success, shorten life, or kill its host. Pathogens are one of the principal mechanisms that regulate insect populations and, under the right conditions, pathogens can drastically reduce a population, an event called an epizootic. Beset from all sides by bacteria, viruses, fungi, nematodes, protozoans, and other disease-causing organisms, it is remarkable that any insects survive.

To the observant gardener, some of these diseases have cu...

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Articles: Calochortophilia: A Californian’s Love Affair with a Genus by Katherine Renz

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