Chaos: A potential problem in the biological control of insect pests

Liebe F. Cavalieri, Huseyin Kocak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Erratic variations are normally observed in the populations of insect pests that destroy crop plants. To establish a scientific basis for developing effective control procedures, we have developed a model system for the European Corn Borer (ECB) (Ostrinia nubilalis) for which extensive field data, as well as laboratory results, have been accumulated during the past four decades. The model includes both a natural ECB pathogen and a genetically engineered toxin-producing agent as possible means of biological control. Our aim was to determine the conditions that could cause the population to vary erratically, as observed in the field. The erratic behavior in our simulations was analyzed to determine whether it is chaotic; chaos is a distinct type of erratic behavior which shows extreme sensitivity to initial conditions, i.e., the starting size of the population. Our simulations show that an increase in the death rate of the infected ECB, or a decrease in the birth rate of uninfected ECBs from infected ones, variables that are known to be affected by weather conditions, can induce a chaotic regime in which ECB population peaks reach values far higher than before chaos set in. Population peaks are even greater in the presence of both biological control agents. The results show that a biological control regime cannot be effective under conditions that induce chaotic population dynamics. Microcosm studies could be used to determine whether this situation would occur in the field.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalMathematical Biosciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Applied Mathematics


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