Intended Audience

The content of this course is tailored to the needs of farmers, NRCS, SWCD, Cooperative Extension, and state department of agriculture employees, as well as crop consultants, natural resource specialists,  and non-governmental conservation organization staff.


Registration is $45 per person. Course registration includes the Xerces Society's Pollinator Conservation Toolkit and a copy of Farming With Native Beneficial Insects.

Catered lunch will be provided, or participants may bring their own lunch. 

Canceled registrations can be refunded until November 2nd 2016.


Wednesday, November 9th, 2016
9:00 AM to 4:30 PM EDT

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The Ashokan Center 
477 Beaverkill Rd
Olivebridge, NY 12461

Driving Directions 


Jillian Vento
The Xerces Society 

Reasonable Accomodations

The Xerces Society provides reasonable accommodations for special events with adequate notice.  To request accommodation for events, please contact by Wednesday, October 26th, 2016.

The USDA and the Xerces Society are equal-opportunity providers and employers.


This Short Course is made possible with the support of the Northeast Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Additional support for this training is provided by the Audrey and J.J. Martindale Foundation, Cascadian Farm, Ceres Trust, CS Fund, Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, General Mills, the Irwin Andrew Porter Foundation, Turner Foundation, Inc., Whole Foods Market and its vendors, and Xerces Society members.

Special thanks to the Hudson Valley Farm Hub, and Hawthorne Valley Farmscape Ecology Program.

About The Xerces Society

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is an international nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat. The Society's Pollinator Conservation Program was launched in 1996, and works with leading native pollinator ecologists to translate the latest research findings into on-the-ground conservation. More information about the Xerces Society is available at

About Hudson Valley Farm Hub

The Hudson Valley Farm Hub, ProFarmer Program: The ProFarmer Program is a multi-year, salaried, residential training program for those with farming experience who aspire to own or manage a farm enterprise in the Hudson Valley.  Working under the mentorship of Jean-Paul Courtens, Director of Farmer Training, ProFarmers gain experience in a hands-on learning environment on one of the most productive and beautiful tracts of farmland in the region.  The Hudson Valley Farm Hub is a non-profit center for resilient agriculture located in Hurley, NY. More information about the Hudson Valley Farm Hub is available at

Photo Credits

Header: Syrphid fly, by Adam Varenhorst. Sidebar: field observation of pollinators and plants, Anne Averille, University of Massachusetts.

 The Xerces Society and Hudson Valley Farm Hub Present:

Farming with Beneficial Insects:
Conservation Biological Control Short Course

The Ashokan Center
Olivebridge, NY

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016
9:00 am - 4:30 pm EDT

Learn a science-based strategy that seeks to integrate beneficial insects for natural pest control!

Farm Hub is generously offering 5 scholarships for this short course.
To apply for consideration, please fill out their scholarship application here. 

Beneficial insects contribute to natural pest suppression and potentially save $4.5 billion annually in pesticide costs. Yet the contribution of insects that prey upon or parasitize crop pests is largely overlooked. Conservation biological control is a science-based pest management strategy that seeks to integrate beneficial insects back into cropping systems for natural pest control, ultimately reducing and in some cases eliminating the need for insecticides. This strategy is based upon ongoing research that continues to demonstrate a link between the conservation of natural habitat and reduced pest problems on farms, orchards, and gardens.

In response to growing interest in promoting beneficial insects for their pest control services on farms, the Xerces Society has authored the book Farming With Native Beneficial Insects and developed the Conservation Biological Control Short Course to educate farmers, agriculture employees, natural resource specialists, land managers, and conservation organization staff.


This workshop will cover: 

  • The importance of beneficial insects - predators and parasitoids that attack insect pests.
  • Overview of conservation biological control and integrated pest management (IPM).
  • How to identify beneficial insects and distinguish them from other insects.
  • How to recognize the habitat needs of beneficial insects and identify habitat deficiencies.
  • The design and implementation of habitat improvements, including site preparation, insectary strip plantings, hedgerows, beetle banks, and more.
  • The current best management practices that minimize land-use impacts on beneficial insects and mitigate exposure to insecticides.
  • How to access USDA conservation programs for financial and technical support.

Participants will receive the Xerces Society's Conservation Biological Control Toolkit which includes habitat installation guidelines and other relevant publications, and the Xerces' book, Farming with Native Beneficial Insects.

 *Continuing Education Credits Available*

  • Certified Crop Advisor (6 CEUs) 
  • Pesticide Applicator (TBD)


Welcome and Announcements 

Farming with Beneficial Insects

  • Overview of conservation biological control and integrated pest management
  • Status of beneficial insect conservation
  • Summary of conservation biocontrol case studies

Common Beneficial Insect Groups

  • Introduction to beneficial insects and the ecological services they provide
  • How to recognize common beneficial insects (predators and parasitoids)
  • Overview of beneficial insect biology and habitat needs
  • Profiles of common predators and parasitoids and the insect pests they attack

Agricultural Best-Practices for Beneficial Insects, presented by Jean-Paul Courtens, Director of Farmer Training, Hudson Valley Farm Hub

  • Timing cover crops to flower at different times of year
  • Crop rotation planning
  • Use of parasitic wasps for insect pest management
  • Choosing equipment and sprays that do the least harm to insects

 Title TBD, presented by Crystal Stewart, Vegetable Specialist, Cornell Cooperative Extension

 Lunch Break

 Designing and Restoring Habitat for Beneficial Insects

  • Conservation practices that support beneficial insects (e.g. beetle banks, buffers, windbreaks, cover crops, field borders, hedgerows, insectary strips, and more)
  • Conservation planning, design, and installation methods (e.g. habitat design and restoration methods; from site selection and preparation to long-term maintenance)
  • Farm case studies/examples

Assessing Beneficial Insect Habitat (group activity)

  • Practice using habitat assessment tool in the field
  • Develop recommendations for habitat enhancements, IPM, management practices, etc. based on assessment results

Beyond the Fence: Where does the Habitat End? Presented by Conrad Vispo, PhD and Claudia Knab-Vispo, PhD, Hawthorne Valley Farmscape Ecology Program

  • What’s the Big Picture? (i.e., what habitat does a species need for entire life cycle of the individual, for the long-term viability of the population)
  • Documenting the Local Commute: Regional explorations of beneficial habitat at various scales.
  • The ‘Middle Ground’: Why farms aren’t the only piece of managing for beneficials

USDA Conservation Programs and Practices for Pollinators and Beneficial Insect Conservation, presented by Elizabeth Marks,  NY Area Biologist, USDA NRCS

  • Introduction to USDA NRCS programs
  • Learn about opportunities for technical and financial assistance for conservation practices on private lands

Farm Practices for Beneficial Insects

  • Supporting beneficial insects with farm practices
  • Preventing potential negative impacts of conventional and organic-approved pesticides on beneficial insects (e.g. exposure pathways, toxicity, residual activity)
  • Mitigating pesticide risks to beneficial insects and other natural resources using IPM, PAMS, and conservation practices (e.g. alternatives to pesticides, drift reduction, buffer practices)
  • Protecting overwintering and nesting sites

Wrap-up and evaluations


Kelly Gill – Xerces Society Pollinator Conservation Specialist, Northeast & Mid-Atlantic Region
Kelly is the Pollinator Conservation Specialist, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Regions for The Xerces Society and a partner biologist with the USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service. Kelly’s position provides technical support for planning, installing, and managing habitat for pollinators and other beneficial insects. A Pennsylvania native, Kelly completed her Master’s Degree in Entomology at Iowa State University. There, she conducted small plot and farm scale research, collaborating with organic and conventional farmers, on the development of best practices for conserving beneficial insects in agricultural landscapes.


Jean-Paul Courtens
Jean-Paul Courtens is a native from the Netherlands and has lived in the US since 1986. He studied at Warmonderhof (part of Groenhorst College) which earned him a degree in Biodynamic Agriculture. Jean-Paul is the Associate Director of Farmer Training at the Hudson Valley Farm Hub in Hurley NY, a 1200-acre mixed crop farm. His work at the Hub includes stewarding the land to organic/ecological practices, hosting research on ecological farming, providing education to the residential “ProFarmers” and staff and hosting educational events for regional farmers. He is also the co-owner of Roxbury Farm in Kinderhook, NY, an integrated farm, producing vegetables, beef, pork and lamb on 375 acres utilizing biodynamic principles and practices.

Claudia Knab-Vispo, PhD
PhD Land Resources, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Diplome Arbeit, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet Muenchen, Munich Germany. Claudia is our field botanist. After working on enthnobotany in Venezuela, she returned to look at the plants of farm fields (ethnobotany of a sort) and wilder places in and around Columbia County. Much of her recent work has involved following-up on Rogers McVaugh's flora of Columbia County. The fieldwork for that publication was done in the 1930s and, with the help of Rogers' unpublished fieldnotes, Claudia has been returning to his sampling sites in order to update our botanical knowledge of the County.

Conrad Vispo, PhD
PhD Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin; MS Wildlife Ecology, Indiana State University; BS Wildlife Ecology, Cornell. Conrad is currently adjunct faculty at the Cornell University Dept. of Horticulture. Before returning to Columbia County, where he grew up, Conrad conducted ecological research on a variety of organisms, including mammals, birds and fish in a variety of places, including the woods of northern Wisconsin and tropical Venezuela.  Conrad’s recent focus is on agroecology - what habitats can farmland provide for native species and, in turn, what can those native species provide to farming? Conrad’s passion is understanding historical and modern patterns of animal (including human) ecology on the land. 

Elizabeth Marks
Elizabeth Marks serves as a biologist for the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA NRCS) in Eastern New York where she specializes in helping people understand what is happening on their land and how to improve it.  She is a certified Holistic Management educator and mentors beginning women farmers.  Elizabeth received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Mount Holyoke College.  She recently completed building her own, energy efficient, net-zero home in Columbia County.