Arizona Daily Star via Associated Press
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- Tucked in a secluded patch of ranchland in Catalina, a bug's life has taken center stage for years.
Dubbed the fly eliminator, the insect is produced at ARBICO Organics and sold around the world as a fly killer that harms no people or animals. Owners of horses and livestock often use the parasitic wasp to keep flies at bay.
"It's our best seller," said Rick Frey, who with his wife, Sherri Herrera de Frey, has been in the bug business for three decades.
The company ships out the fly eliminator as pupae in wood shavings. Once the insects hatch, users disperse them in problem areas such as manure piles and feeding sites.
The insect holds a special place in Frey's office. Its picture hangs on a wall behind the biologist's desk.
"Good bugs" Frey calls his fly parasites, ladybugs, praying mantis and other insects used for natural pest control. He produces bugs in Catalina or elsewhere in cooperation with other companies.
Some of Frey's bugs also have appealed to Hollywood over the years. More recently, Frey said he provided the maggots and flies that appear on the big screen as plagues in "The Reaping."
Frey also started engaging in organic gardening before the practice gained widespread popularity. First, he and his wife planted an organic garden on the site about 1990. Then they launched their first catalog offering gardening products.
Today, finally, "green is popular, so it's kind of exciting," he said.
He and his wife, who studied business, launched their bug venture out of her father's Tucson house in 1979. Now they have about 45 employees in Catalina during the busy season, which runs from March to June.
"That's when the bugs come out," said Sarah Skeans, an ARBICO employee who takes about 450 bug orders per day mostly by phone and online during those months.
The work slows down somewhat after June, cutting the staff in half, Frey said.
Employees Mike Schaffer and Matthew Ammon had plenty to do recently as they worked to fill an order from Mexico for 400 bags of beneficial nematodes. The microscopic roundworms control beetles, grubs and caterpillars.
Fly eliminators, ladybugs and nematodes are just some of the bugs in Arbico's heavy pest-control arsenal. And when Frey isn't inside making sure his bugs are being properly cared for, he's outside checking on a demonstration garden. It's organic, of course.
Kristin Reece, who works at ARBICO, said all employees get to eat the garden's fruits and vegetables.
"It's great," she said.
Information from: Arizona Daily Star, http://www.azstarnet.com
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.