Current Research and Methods

The transparent Palisade Insectary greenhouse building shines bright from within and illuminates the snowy night.

The Palisade Insectary applies many scientific protocols and methods to study biocontrol agents. Research is done into the safety, impact, use, creation, and spread of agents and pest hosts. Here are some of the research methods used.


Laboratory Research and Rearing

Before agents are released into the environment, much lab research is done to make sure of the safety, use and impact of the agents on the target pest. The Palisade Insectary explores the lifecycles and interactions of agents and their hosts. 

Lab raising of certain agents is needed to build populations. It is also needed to continue populations of agents that may not survive in Colorado's winter climate.  

Surveys and Releases

Consistent surveying of vegetation and biocontrol agents across Colorado allows the Palisade Insectary to identify emerging pest problems, find and utilize field nursery sites to redistribute agents, and establish agents in areas where they are most needed.

Field Monitoring

Many monitoring methods are used by the Insectary to look at the effects of different biocontrols. The most common methods are: 

  • SIMP (Standardized Impact Monitoring Protocol)
    • Developed by researchers in Idaho and adopted nationally, the SIMP protocol is used to document target weed density, vegetation cover, and biological control agent abundance along a 20-meter transect. Data can be documented on a SIMP form (Idaho Invasive Species) or using the iBiocontrol App on a mobile device. 
  • Macro Plot Monitoring
    • This monitoring consists of a 16-meter square plot along with six 50-meter transects going out from the agent release point to document changes in the abundance of the targeted plant species, changes in the abundance of the insect biocontrol agent, expansion of impact area away from the point of introduction, and changes in the vegetation community. 
Field Experiments

Field experiments allows the Palisade Insectary to look at biological control for Colorado's environment. Experiments in field conditions can answer questions that inform us about the biocontrol effects on plant species layout and how it works with other control methods.  

Data Analysis and Mapping
Survey, monitoring, release, and experimental data are used by the Palisade Insectary to make better land management decisions for the control of invasive pest species. Data collected is verified, analyzed and then shared to improve biocontrol usage and effectiveness

Mapping of Colorado's weed and insect pests can help manage the spread of pests and create more effective control strategies
Research Collaboration

The Palisade Insectary participates in regional and national biocontrol programs, and has partnerships with many individuals and organizations to help biocontrol projects in Colorado. We have a long history of working together on projects with the USDA, CSU, CMU, USU, US Forest Service, BLM, EPA, SERDP, international organizations and many other biocontrol researchers in the US. 


One of our main goals is to inform resource managers, landowners, and the general public of the availability of agents and help them understand the opportunities to utilize biological control to improve their pest control efforts and achieve management objectives. We do this through our website, press releases, social media posts, presentations, and group tours of the Insectary. 

International Code of Best Practices for Classical Biological Control of Weeds

The Code was approved in 1999 by the delegates to the 10th International Symposium on Biological Control of Weeds and provides a standard guideline for biological control:

  1. Ensure target weed’s potential impact justifies release of non-endemic agents
  2. Obtain multi-agency approval for target 
  3. Select agents with the potential to control the target weed
  4. Release safe and approved agents
  5. Ensure only the intended agent is released
  6. Use appropriate protocols for release and documentation
  7. Monitor impact on the target plant species
  8. Stop releases of ineffective agents, or when control is achieved
  9. Monitor impacts on potential non target species
  10. Encourage assessment of changes in plant and animal communities
  11. Monitor interactions among agents
  12. Communicate the results to the public

Project Spotlight

SERDP Funded Phenology Modeling of Tamarix and Biological Controls

In cooperation with the Department of Defense Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SRDP), researchers at the CDA Palisade Insectary and Oregon State University have developed a phenology model of the Northern Tamarisk Beetle, Diorhabda carinulata. This model predicts when different life stages of the beetle occur in the field based on temperature and day length. This is particularly important to predict when these beneficial biological control agents may be collected and redistributed. The model is applicable to all of North America and may also be applied to other Diorhabda species with success. This lifecycle model can be located at uspest.org, which also has models for many other insects both pest species and beneficials.