Releasing a non-native biological control agent

How to apply for a licence to release non-native invertebrate and microbial biological control agents in England.

Background

In England and Wales, under section 14 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, non-native animals are not allowed to be released into the environment (including in glasshouses and polytunnels). An option exists under the same Act to issue licences for the release of otherwise prohibited species, including non-native biological control agents to control plant pests and weeds, if they are assessed as not being a significant risk. The Defra non-native biological control agent (NNBCA) licensing team is responsible for these technical assessments and issuing licences of approved organisms. This includes issuing of licences for microbiological control agents under certain circumstances.

Types of biological control agents

Non-native biological control agents can be one of two types: classical biological control agents or augmentative biological control agents. Classical biological control agents are defined as natural enemies that self-propagate and establish in the introduced environment to suppress pest populations. Augmentative biological control agents, on the other hand, are not expected to establish and are defined as mass produced natural enemies that are periodically introduced into a specific environment to supress pest populations.

Invertebrate biological control agents (IBCAs)

All non-native IBCAs are covered under the non-native biological control agent regulatory system.

Microbial biological control agents (MBCAs)

Non-native MBCAs are also covered under the NNBCA regulatory system if they are a plant health pest being held under quarantine conditions.

MBCAs which are not released as part of a formulated product are the primary responsibility of the Defra NNBCA licensing team and are subject to the relevant NNBCA review process as detailed below.

MBCAs released as part of a formulated product, in contrast, are the primary responsibility of HSE - Biopesticides Home (hse.gov.uk). The Defra NNBCA licensing team should still be informed in these cases, as the Defra NNBCA licensing team needs to carry out an assessment of whether the MBCA can be released from quarantine conditions.

When is a licence required?

Only biological control agents which are not ordinarily resident in the wild in the UK and not a regular visitor to the UK require a licence. Whilst MBCAs are not covered by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, an assessment to release them may still be required by the Defra NNBCA licensing team.

Applications are only required if there is an intention to release the agent into the environment in England (including in glasshouses and polytunnels). Agents that are being used for research under contained conditions are not assessed by the Defra NNBCA licensing team but should be held under controlled conditions. See the below guidance.

Guidelines for holding and researching non-native invertebrate biological control agents under contained conditions in England

Licences are required for agents intended to control:

  • Animal health pests
  • Plant health pests
  • Public health pests
  • Invasive alien pests
  • Weeds

See below for lists of non-native invertebrate biological control agents available for use in England and for which a licence is required and non-native invertebrate biological control agents available for use in England and for which a licence is not required.

If you wish to use a biological control agent that does not appear in either of these lists and you are not sure of whether it requires a licence, please contact non-nativebiocontrol.licensing@defra.gov.uk.

Apply for a licence to release an IBCA or MBCA

Applications can be submitted on the forms provided below, using the guidance documents provided:

Augmentative IBCAs

Application to licence the release of an augmentative non-native invertebrate biological control agent (IBCA) in England.

Guidelines for the completion of an application to licence the release of an augmentative non-native invertebrate biological control agent (IBCA) in England.

Classical IBCAs

Application to licence the release of a classical non-native invertebrate biological control agent (IBCA) in England.

Guidelines for the completion of an application to licence the release of a classical non-native invertebrate biological control agent (IBCA) in England.

MBCAs

Application to licence the release of a classical non-native microbial biological control agent (MBCA) in England.

Application to licence the release of an augmentative non-native microbial biological control agent (MBCA) in England.

Guidelines for the completion of an application to licence the release of an augmentative non-native microbial biological control agent (MBCA) in England

What to include in your application

  • Applicant and product information

  • Background information on the IBCA/MBCA
    • Identity
    • Distribution
    • Biology

  • Voucher specimen/identity confirmation
    • This should be deposited in a recognised reference collection or the identity of the agent should be confirmed to prove the identity of the IBCA/MBCA.

  • Risk assessment for the IBCA/MBCA
    • Establishment
    • Host range
    • Spread
    • Direct/indirect impacts
    • Potential benefits
    • Uncertainty
    • Conclusion of the risk assessment

  • Post release monitoring and control measures

Review Process

Once your application has been submitted, it will go through a review process. This process differs between applications of classical and augmentative biological control agents, based on the potential of the agents to cause wider impacts in the environment.

Classical biological control agents will undergo a series of internal and external reviews as well as a public/stakeholder consultation and a European partner consultation via the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organisation (EPPO). A thorough review process is needed as, once these agents are released, there may be no practical measures available for their eradication, and any adverse impacts they have on the environment may be widespread and long lasting.

Augmentative biological control agents, conversely, will just be subject to internal and external reviews before approval. This is a shorter process due to the lower level of risk, with any impacts likely to be transient and limited. However, if the augmentative agent has the potential to establish in the wider environment and cause wider impacts, they will be treated as classical agents and be subject to the entire review process. The following schematic gives a summary of this process for the different types of biocontrol agents.

Figure 1 - licence process flowchart

Granting of licences

Once approved, the Defra NNBCA licensing team will issue the required licences for the release. Licences differ based on the type of biological control agent. In most cases, new licences will remain valid for two years but following renewal will remain valid for five years thereafter.

Licences for classical IBCAs

For classical IBCAs, only one licence is issued:

Releaser’s licence– This provides approval for the applicant to release the agent into England and gives the conditions for release, including the criteria for selecting release sites.

Licences for augmentative IBCAs

For augmentative IBCAs, three types of licence are issued:

Supplier’s licence – This provides approval for the applicant to release the agent into England for research and development and to supply the agent for the purposes of controlling a pest(s). The licence also gives the conditions for release.

Distributor’s licence – This provides approval for the distributor to supply the agent for the purposes of controlling a pest(s). The licence also gives the conditions for release.

Grower’s licence – This provides approval for the end user to release the agent into England. The licence also gives the conditions for release.

All three of these licences are issued to the supplier who is responsible for distributing the licences to the appropriate parties.

A letter will be provided if IBCAs are held under quarantine conditions.

Licences for MBCAs

For MCBAs, no licences are issued by the Defra NNBCA licensing team. Instead, a letter is issued giving approval to release the agent from quarantine conditions.

Renewing an existing licence

If nothing has changed in the application that alters the risk of the agent since the last licence was issued, a new application is not required. Sending an email to

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stating that nothing has changed will suffice.

If there are changes that alter the risk of the agent, the applicant will need to send in a revised application to be reviewed by the Defra NNBCA licensing team. Significant changes will need to follow the review process as for new applications.

Reference specimens or ID confirmation will be required for renewals of licences.

Non-native invertebrate biological control agents available for use in England and for which a licence is required

Species Family Organism type Target pest group(s)
Amblydromalus limonicus Phytoseiidae Predatory mite Thrips, whitefly
Amblyseius degenerans Phytoseiidae Predatory mite Thrips
Amblyseius fallacis Phytoseiidae Predatory mite Spider mite
Amblyseius montdorensis Phytoseiidae Predatory mite Thrips and whitefly
Amblyseius ovalis Phytoseiidae Predatory mite Whitefly
Amblyseius swirskii Phytoseiidae Predatory mite Thrips and whitefly
Anagyrus fusciventris Encyrtidae Parasitoid wasp Mealybug
Aphalara itadori Aphalaridae Herbivore Japanese knotweed
Chilocorus nigrita Coccinellidae Predatory beetle Scale insects
Delphastus catalinae Coccinellidae Predatory beetle Whitefly
Delphastus pusillus Coccinellidae Predatory beetle Whitefly
Eretmocerus eremicus Aphelinidae Parasitoid wasp Whitefly
Euseius gallicus Phytoseiidae Predatory mite Whitefly, thrips and spider mites
Franklinothrips vespiformis Aeolothripidae Predatory thrips Thrips
Heterorhabditis bacteriophora Heterorhabditidae Parasitic nematode Vine weevils
Heterorhabditis downesi Heterorhabditidae Parasitic nematode Root-eating pests
Leptomastix algirica Encyrtidae Parasitoid wasp Mealybug
Macrolophus caliginosus Miridae Predatory bug Whitefly
Metaphycus flavus Encyrtidae Parasitoid wasp Scale insects
Metaseiulus occidentalis Phytoseiidae Predatory mite Spider mite
Neoseiulus californicus Phytoseiidae Predatory Mite Spider mite
Pseudaphycus maculipennis Encyrtidae Parasitoid wasp Mealybug
Trichogramma achaeae Trichogrammatidae Parasitoid wasp Tuta absoluta
Trichogramma brassicae Trichogrammatidae Egg parasitoid Moths

Invertebrate biological control agents available for use in England and for which a licence is not required

Species Family Organism type Target pest group(s)
Adalia bipunctata Coccinellidae Predatory beetle Aphids
Aleochara bilineata Staphylinidae Predatory beetle Flies
Amblyseius andersoni Phytoseiidae Predatory mite Mites
Anagyrus pesudococci Encyrtidae Parasitoid wasp Mealybug
Anagyrus vladimiri Encyrtidae Parasitoid wasp Mealybug
Anthocoris nemoralis Anthocoridae Predatory bug Psyllids
Anthocoris nemorum Anthocoridae Predatory bug Thrips and psyllids
Aphelinus abdominalis Aphelinidae Parasitoid wasp Aphids
Aphidius colemani Braconidae Parasitoid wasp Aphids
Aphidius ervi Braconidae Parasitoid wasp Aphids
Aphidius matricariae Braconidae Parasitoid wasp Aphids
Aphidoletes aphidimyza Cecidomyiidae Predatory midge Aphids
Bracon hebetor Braconidae Parasitoid wasp Moths
Chrysoperla carnea Chrysopidae Predatory lacewing Aphids
Chrysoperla lucasina Chrysopidae Predatory lacewing Aphids
Cryptolaemus montrouzieri Coccinellidae Predatory beetle Mealybug
Dacnusa sibirica Braconidae Parasitoid wasp Leaf miners
Dalotia (Atheta) coriaria Staphylinidae Predatory beetle Shore flies and fungus gnats
Diglyphus isaea Eulophidae Parasitoid wasp Leaf miners
Encarsia citrina Aphelinidae Parasitoid wasp Scale insects
Encarsia formosa Aphelinidae Parasitoid wasp Whitefly
Ephedrus cerasicola Braconidae Parasitoid wasp Aphids
Episyrphus balteatus Syrphidae Aphids hoverfly Aphididae
Eupeodes corollae Syrphidae Predatory hoverfly Aphids
Feltiella acarisuga Cecidomyiidae Predatory midge Spider mites
Leptomastix dactylopii Encyrtidae Parasitoid wasp Mealybug
Leptomastix epona Encyrtidae Parasitoid wasp Mealybug
Macrocheles robustulus Macrochelidae Predatory mite Thrips and fungus gnats
Macrolophus pygmaeus Miridae Predatory bug Whitefly
Metaphycus helvolus Encyrtidae Parasitoid wasp Scale insects
Micromus angulatus Hemerobiidae Predatory lacewing Aphids
Neoseiulus cucumeris Phytoseiidae Predatory mite Thrips
Orius laevigatus Anthocoridae Predatory bug Thrips
Orius majusculus Anthocoridae Predatory bug Thrips
Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita Phasmarhabditidae Parasitic nematode Slugs
Praon volucre Braconidae Parasitoid wasp Aphids
Propylea quatuordecimpunctata Coccinellidae Predatory beetle Aphids
Phytoseiulus persimilis Phytoseiidae Predatory mite Spider mites
Rhizobius lophantae Coccinellidae Predatory beetle Scale insects
Rhizophagus grandis Rhizophagidae Predatory beetle Dendroctonus micans
Sphaerophoria ruepellii Syrphidae Predatory hoverfly Aphids
Steinernema carpocapsae Steinernematidae pathogenic nematode Fungus gnats, soil borne insects and vine weevils.
Steinernema feltiae Steinernematidae pathogenic nematode Scarab beetles and fungus gnats.
Steinernema kraussei Steinernematidae pathogenic nematode Vine weevils
Stratiolaelaps scimitus (Hypoaspis miles) Laelapidae Predatory mite Thrips and fungus gnats
Trichogramma evanescens Trichogrammatidae Egg parasitoid Moths (including on stored products)

Contact

If you wish to apply for a new licence or renew an existing one in England please contact:

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If you wish to apply for a licence in Scotland please email:

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If you wish to apply for a licence in Wales please email:

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If you wish to apply for a licence in Northern Ireland please email:

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