Beetles battle to save the sabra
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Beetles battle to save the sabra

After cacti are struck with infestation, researchers release 150,000 ladybugs to naturally inhibit lethal spread

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Chief Forester of KKL-JNF, David Brand scattering the "Cryptolaemus montrouzieri" beetles over the infected prickly pear cactus plant in Northern Israel. (photo credit: Ancho Gosh/Gini)
Chief Forester of KKL-JNF, David Brand scattering the "Cryptolaemus montrouzieri" beetles over the infected prickly pear cactus plant in Northern Israel. (photo credit: Ancho Gosh/Gini)

In an effort to save Israel’s beloved national fruit, recently infected in northern Israel by a parasitic bug, 150,000 ladybird beetles were unleashed to combat the spread of the lethal scale insect.

The aggressive “Etzbarit,” also known as Dactylopius opuntiae, was detected by Volcani Center and KKL-JNF researchers.

The insect, which has latched onto the prickly plants in parts of the Hula Valley, could threaten the cacti throughout the country if measures were not taken to restrain its infestation.

To curb its damaging effects, thousands of “Cryptolaemus montrouzieri” beetles were set on the parasite, after lab tests proved the ladybugs effective for tackling the spread.

The "Cryptolaemus montrouzieri" beetle (photo credit:  Ancho Gosh/Gini)
The “Cryptolaemus montrouzieri” beetle (photo credit: Ancho Gosh/Gini)

The sabra stands as a cultural reference for native-born Israelis, who, legend would have it, like the prickly pear for which they are named, boast a thorny exterior masking soft and sweet internal qualities.

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