CABI joined the international community of entomopathogenic nematode experts from science and the biocontrol industry to celebrate the 100 years since the discovery of these important biological control agents.

Dr Stefan Toepfer, one of CABI’s nematode scientists, attended a special anniversary conference at the Riojaforum Congress Centre in Logrono, Spain, where he presented progress on the use of entomopathogenic nematodes in field crops.

He highlighted their utilization in comparison to the common use of those biocontrol agents in cash crops such as vegetables, greenhouse, nurseries, or mushroom production.

Patrick Fallet, a just finished PhD student, supervised by Professor Ted Turlings from the University of Neuchâtel and Professor Toepfer, presented on his collaborative research on application technologies of those nematodes against the serious maize pest fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda).

Effective natural enemies of insect pests

Entomopathogenic nematodes are tiny soil-living insect-killing worms, also called beneficial nematodes. They live together with their symbiotic bacteria, needed to become effective natural enemies of insect pests. Nowadays, those nematodes are among the most used group of biocontrol agents against insect pests.

They are important biocontrol agents, used against several insect pests. There are many different species and strains, but only some are currently registered in many countries and widely used. See the global database of bioprotection products the CABI BioProtection Portal.

Microscopic entomopathogenic nematodes that can infect insects and are used as safe biocontrol agents (Photo: S. Toepfer).

In 1923, German entomologist Anton Hermann Krausse isolated an entomopathogenic nematode from a forest pest in Thuringia state of in southeastern Germany.

He was a scientist that studied in Leipzig and Jena in Germany, and later worked at the forestry academy in Eberswalde near Berlin. Swiss scientist Gotthard Steiner taxonomically described this first ever entomopathogenic nematodes species as Aplectana kraussei

The species was later re-named Steinernema kraussei in memory of both key scientists in the field of nematology. Science then, more than 100 new Steinernema species have been described, but many more a hypothesized to exist in the soils of the world.

Reviewing the history of science and usage of nematodes

The anniversary conference was aimed at reviewing the history of science and usage of nematodes and their symbiotic bacteria. About 90 scientists from 24 countries from across the globe met at Logrono. Five keynote speakers presented on the path of research up to today. Meanwhile, about 30 cutting-edge scientists on nematodes and their bacteria presented state-of-the-art research, as well as trends and perspectives.

Dr Raquel Campos-Herrera, of the Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences (ICVV) in Spain, led the organization of the conference. She said, “This event was a unique opportunity to celebrate a century of scientific achievements in the field of nematology and entomology. It is the centenary of the discovery of Steinernema kraussei and contributes to the advancement of knowledge and solutions for sustainable agriculture and pest management.”

Dr Toepfer said, “Entomopathogenic nematodes are particularly suitable group biocontrol agents, as they are, despite being microscopic, able to search their target host, even in concealed pests-crop situations. Moreover, they can be mass-produced in extremely large quantities.”

Participants of the EPN 100th anniversary conference in Logrono, Spain.

Additional information

Main image: Historic description of the first every entomopathogenic nematode Steinernema kraussei, by Dr Steiner and Dr Krausse in 1923.


Steiner, G. (1923) Aplectana kraussei n.sp., a type of nematode parasitizing in the leaf wasp Lyda sp., with remarks on the lateral organ of the parasitic nematode (Aplectana kraussei n.sp., eine in der Blattwespe Lyda sp. parasitierende Nematodenform, nebst Bemerkungen über das Seitenorgan der parasitischen Nematoden). Zentralblatt für Bakteriologie, Parasitenkunde, Infektionskrankheiten und Hygiene, Zweite Abteilung 59, 14-18.

Forthcoming book from CABI

Find out more about the book Entomopathogenic Nematodes as Biological Control Agents published by CABI here.

Relevant stories

‘Training on mass production of entomopathogenic nematodes for biological control of invasive insect pests.’

‘PhD student wins international research award for fight against devastating fall armyworm pest.’

‘Nematode-based solution offers possible ‘weapon’ in arsenal against devastating fall armyworm pest.’

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