NPLK18001U Applied Insect Ecology and Biological Control

Volume 2024/2025

MSc Programme in Agriculture

MSc Programme in Environment and Development

MSc Programme in Global Environment and Development


Management of insect pest populations requires an ecologically based knowledge and understanding of their biology, lifecycles and their interactions with host plants and with their natural enemies. Climate and cropping practices will affect these interactions and the resulting management strategy. The course will focus on management of insects and mites on plants, in the framework of  insect ecology and biological control.

Topics covered

  • Strategies of biological control against insect and mite pests.
  • Applied insect-plant ecology and the influence of abiotic factors and agricultural practices on crop pests and their natural enemies.
  • Natural enemy groups: predators, parasitoids, microorganisms, nematodes, and their ecology: Life cycles and modes of action in relation to their prey/host.
  • Isolation and selection of biological control organisms, and commercially available organisms for biological control.
  • Prevention of attacks and manipulation of pest insects and their natural enemies, through crop management and enhancement of functional biodiversity in cropping system.
  • Monitoring and forecasting methodologies of pest populations
  • Cases of practical application within agriculture, horticulture, and other managed landscapes.
  • Barriers, challenges and risks of use of biological control strategies.


Experimental work

The students will perform a limited set of experiments related to biological control, including reporting on results. The options will vary from year to year. Examples are:

  • Insect-prey and insect-predator interactions (behaviour, preference, etc.).
  • The effect of temperature/diet/host plant on insect herbivores or predators.
  • Bio-assays using microorganisms for biological control.


Discussion of the experiments and obtained results in relation to relevant literature will be included in the students' short experimental reports.


Learning Outcome

Learning outcome

Students will acquire a knowledge of pest insects, their natural enemies, and biological interactions (including with the crop itself) supporting environmentally friendly and sustainable pest control strategies.

After the course the student should be able to:


  • Describe and understand the strategies used in insect pest management and biological control.
  • Describe the main methods to prevent and control insect attacks.
  • Characterize the main types of organisms used for biological control.
  • Describe the principles and methods of monitoring insect pests of crops.
  • Describe methods used for diagnostics, isolation, characterization, laboratory bio-assays and field experiments of relevance for functional biodiversity and biological control.


  • Ability to select an organism and strategy for biological control in a specified system.
  • Ability to select relevant methods to study interactions between natural enemies, target prey/host and environment, and analyse results.
  • Analyse and process monitoring data to develop and communicate a decision background for growers.
  • Ability to identify and analyse potential risks when using biological control agents or other management methods, both in a specified system and in a general context considering UN's sustainable development goals, with special focus on SDG no. 12 (responsible consumption and production) and no. 15 (life on land).
  • Ability to use scientific literature to discuss own data in relation to insect ecology and biological control.
  • Ability to collect and handle data, including general data protection, conduct basic analyses of monitoring results and experimental data, and ability to relate findings to scientific literature.


  • Explain the major concepts of insect pest management.
  • Explain and discuss effects of crop production system on populations of pests, natural enemies and other insects.
  • Ability to combine knowledge from different disciplines, into decision processes considering multitrophic interactions of ecological relevance.
  • Perform and analyse experimental work involving two or three organisms.
  • Ability to discuss empirical data and relate this to relevant scientific literature.
  • Discuss innovative solutions for insect pest management.


Hajek AE, Eilenberg J. Natural enemies: an introduction to biological control. 2 ed. Cambridge University Press, 2018. 439 s. The information of which edition is used can be found on Absalon.

Including scientific articles, book chapters and manuals for experimental parts.

Detailed information will be available on Absalon.

Basic knowledge about ecology, applied entomology and microbiology is advised.

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.
The teaching and learning methods will include lectures, theoretical exercises, discussion of original scientific literature with emphasis on conceptual elements, biology of involved organisms and case studies of practical application. Practicals: experimental work in teams, of selected topics. The experiments are performed by setting up hypotheses for discussion and writing short experimental group reports. Each team will be supervised concerning methodology, data collection and discussion. Preparation: for theoretical and practical exercises, preparation (literature reading) is necessary.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 25
  • Preparation
  • 130
  • Theory exercises
  • 20
  • Practical exercises
  • 30
  • Exam
  • 1
  • Total
  • 206
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 20 min
Type of assessment details
The exam is individual. Students are provided a list of main topics two weeks before the exam day. The student must prepare a 10 min presentation for each of the topics. The student will start the exam by drawing one of these topics, followed by an oral presentation of the specific topic. The presentation includes perspectives of parts of experimental and theoretical exercises, and it will be followed by questions directly related to the topic and within the overall curriculum of the course. No preparation time.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examiners

Re-exams will be the same way as ordinary exams

Criteria for exam assesment

Grades are given based on overall fulfilment of course curriculum as demonstrated during the exam. See learning outcome