A NEW 1m field study will start next spring to find out how much land must be devoted to beetle banks and similar areas favouring indigenous biocontrol insects in order to cut the use of insecticides.

The Rebugging The System project, backed by a new DEFRA/Research Council Rural Economy and Land Use initiative, will be undertaken by the Game Conservancy Trust, Rothamsted Research and Imperial College.

“We are trying to measure the amount of insect-rich habitat that is needed to produce an effect,” says GCT entomologist John Holland.

“No-one has investigated it on this scale before. Our aim is to see how much land needs to be manipulated to create good habitat before you encourage beneficial insects sufficiently to achieve natural pest control.”

The work, based on prescriptions in the government”s Agri-environment schemes, will focus on adding 6m flower-rich mixed-grass strips at field margins.