There is a way to get rid of pests without using toxic pesticides, and the solution is simpler than one might think: Employing predatory bugs that will attack and kill damaging insects.
Israeli company BioBee has been developing this chemical-free technique for years, and is now deploying it in farms all over the world, using living insects instead of chemical pesticides, which could be harmful.
Selling its products to 50 countries worldwide, including Russia, India, Chile and South Africa, BioBee recently started to collaborate with Colombia, which will receive 600 million spider mites over the next year. The company was not available to comment on the price of the spiders, but some reports in the media have claimed that one gram of these spiders costs about $180 – more than five times the price of gold ($34 per gram)!
BioBee breeds a special kind of predatory spider called Bio Persimilis, which can keep pests under control in several crops, such as peppers, tomatoes, beans, maize, cucumber, melon, strawberries and eggplants. It is specifically effective against other kinds of spider mites, but contrary to these other mites, Bio Persimilis doesn’t cause any harm to the plants.
The Bio Persimilis spiders used by BioBee are as big as the spider mites they chase, about one or two millimeters long. They move quickly, hunt their prey and pierce it, sucking out its fluids.
These bugs will be shipped to Columbia in bottles of 2,000 or 4,000, then sprinkled over the crops or distributed through unique boxes hung on the plants. The company maintains that the investment is worthwhile to farmers, who would otherwise have to use chemical pesticides and thus not be able to export their crops, since international regulations limit their use.
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Experts have long advocated for a decrease in the use of aggressive chemical pesticides, and their risks are known to the public, so finding a natural solution to reduce populations of noxious plant pests seems like the best way to go. Adopting natural solutions could also improve public health. In addition, pesticides damage the environment, pollute the air and water in their surroundings and beyond, as they are easily carried by the wind.
Another reason to reduce the use of pesticides is that, with time, pests develop resistance to extensive pesticide use. This encourages farmers to use more and more pesticides, while generations of powerful super-bugs proliferate.
Good bugs versus bad bugs
The alternative provided by BioBee is inspired by what is called in the scientific literature “the biological control phenomenon,” which is the natural balance of the “good bugs” eating the “bad bugs.” According to Shimon Steinberg, head of the research and development team at BioBee, “you can see it in your backyard. This phenomenon exists everywhere, and we need to know how to exploit it.”
Founded in 1984 in Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, BioBee’s facility mass-produces the natural enemies of the harmful pests: The company harvests flies and bees for various purposes, along with spiders. “We take them from nature and we give them the optimal conditions in order for them to proliferate and reproduce,” according to Steinberg. The mites are cultivated without any genetic modification in an environment that allows them to thrive. The Israeli weather is perfect for this purpose, with its short winter and its hot, humid summer.
The impact of this method has been measured on crops in Israel, yielding impressive results, according to BioBee: On sweet pepper crops, it reduced the use of pesticides by 75 percent; and on strawberry crops, they were reduced by 80 percent. In Colombia and other countries in South America, the reduction in the use of pesticides would allow many farmers to finally meet the standards required for exporting their produce.