Sun Moon Farm_BolandKelly NH NRCS

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 Conservation Biocontrol Toolkit and a copy of Farming With Native Beneficial Insects.

Please bring a sack lunch - lunch will not be provided. 

Canceled registrations can be refunded until November 23rd, 2017.


Thursday, November 30th, 2017
9:00 AM to 4:00 PM EDT

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MOFGA Common Ground Education Center 
294 Crosby Brook Road
Unity, ME 04988

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 July 14th, 2017.

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.

Special thanks to Anna Mueller and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.

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

Photo Credits

Header: Syrphid fly, by Adam Varenhorst. 
Sidebar: Field observation of pollinators and plants at Sun Moon farm, by Kelly Boland, NH NRCS.

 Conservation Biological Control
Short Course

MOFGA Common Ground Education Center
294 Crosby Brook Road
Unity, ME

Thursday, November 30th, 2017
9:00 am - 4:00 pm EDT

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

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).
  • The most common beneficial insect groups and their ecological roles.
  • 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 (5.5 CEUs) 
  • Commericial and Private Pesticide Applicators (5 credits)


Welcome and Announcements 

Module 1. Farming with Beneficial Insects (Thelma Heidel-Baker)

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

Module 2. Farm Practices for Beneficial Insects (Thelma Heidel-Baker)

  • Supporting beneficial insects with best farm practices and Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
  • Learn about insecticides exposure pathways, toxicity, residual activity, and the associated impacts on beneficial insects
  • Techniques to prevent potential negative impacts of conventional and organic-approved insecticides on beneficial insects
  • Priority concerns including systemic insecticides, fungicides, and tank mixtures
  • Guidelines to protect habitat from pesticide contamination (e.g., creating set-backs, buffers, and vegetative drift barriers)

Module 3. Common Beneficial Insect Groups (Thelma Heidel-Baker) 

  • Introduction to beneficial insects and the ecological services they provide
  • Overview of beneficial insect biology and habitat needs
  • Profiles of common predators and parasitoids and the insect pests they attack
  • Activity: Scouting for beneficial insects and observing preserved specimens

Lunch Break 

Module 4. Designing and Restoring Habitat for Beneficial Insects (Eric Venturini)

  • 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

Module 5: Role of Predatory Ground Beetles in Weed Seed Predation (Sonja Birthisel)

  • 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.

Module 6. Assessing Beneficial Insect Habitat (group activity) 

  • Learn how to evaluate habitat and farm management practices to inform conservation planning using the Beneficial Insect Habitat Assessment Guide Tool
  • Work in groups to develop a beneficial insect conservation plan that includes recommendations for habitat enhancements, IPM, management practices, etc. based on assessment scores
  • Discuss results

Module 7. USDA Conservation Programs and Practices for Pollinators and Beneficial Insect Conservation  (Eric Venturini)

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

Module 8. Conservation Biocontrol Research in Maine, Speaker TBD 

  • Learn about ongoing research in Maine to support conservation biocontrol in Maine agricultural crops


  • Course evaluations
  • Raffle
  • Questions and answer


Thelma Heidel-Baker, Ph.D. is the Conservation Biocontrol Specialist for The Xerces Society. She has extensive experience in biological control and integrated pest management (IPM) in agricultural cropping systems and provides nationwide support for developing pest management programs with reduced risks to beneficial insects. She also develops technical materials to guide beneficial insect conservation on farms. Thelma received her Ph.D. in entomology from the University of Minnesota where she studied the role of beneficial insects in soybean IPM. She actively incorporates insect conservation practices into her family’s organic dairy farm in southeastern Wisconsin.

Eric Venturini is a Pollinator Conservationist and Partner Biologist with NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) and The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. He works with farmers and NRCS Conservationists in New England to support efforts to establish pollinator habitat on farms. Eric completed a Master’s degree at the University of Maine in 2015, studying the effects of pollinator habitat plantings on wild bees and crop pollination. He has published scientific papers on pollinator plantings, bee habitat in New England, and weeds and climate change. Eric has worked far and wide as a scientist, but also spent two years working on farms, and another year as a staff educator at Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Most recently he ran a small consulting company called Grow Wild Bees.

Sonja Birthisel is a PhD student in Ecology and Environmental Sciences at the University of Maine.  Her research focuses on the management of agricultural weeds.  Birthisel holds a Bachelors in Biology from Luther College, and a Masters in Ecology and Environmental Sciences from UMaine.  She will be speaking about her research on beneficial ground beetles and other organisms that eat weed seeds, providing an 'ecosystem service' that reduces the number of weed seeds entering seedbanks each year.