A predator is an animal that attacks and feeds on other animals (the prey). The prey is killed and usually mostly or entirely eaten.
- Spiders are well known predators. They catch insects to feed on them, either by hunting them down or by entrapping them in a web. In a healthy crop, many spiders will be present. They play an important role in keeping pest populations under control.
- Another common predator is the ladybird beetle. Both adults and larvae of this insect feed on aphids and other small insects.
- Carabid beetles are often seen in rice fields where they hunt for their prey.
- Mirid bugs are important predators that help to keep BPH populations at low levels.
- Dragonflies are predators that hunt for flying insects.
- Praying mantids catch other insects by grabbing them with their long front legs.
- In rice fields, predators can be found even in the water and on the surface of the water. For example water striders and nymphs of damselflies play important roles in maintaining the ecological balance.
Most predators are not very specific. They will feed on many different types of prey. Their food consists not only of pest insects (plant eating insects) but also of many other insects that feed on organic material. For example on decomposing straw many small wingless insects (Collembola) are found, that can form an important source of food for spiders and other predators.
IPM farmers know the importance of predators. They will protect them by avoiding using pesticides. Some predators can also be mass produced and then release them in the field.
IPM farmer will always try to create an environment in which predators can survive easily. This can be done, for example, by growing vegetables near the rice fields and by providing straw, where the predators will find shelter and food (small insects).
Except for the already mentioned predators (beneficial insects, spiders) there are examples of other animals that can help to reduce pest populations:
- Some birds eat insects and can be invited into the crop by placing perches.
- Chickens can be allowed in the field to feed on caterpillars.
- Some farmers use ducks in the rice fields as predators of snails and insects.
- Frogs eat insects.
- Snakes kill rats.