Israelis heading to the Adriatic for a vacation in the next few months may be sharing their flight with some unexpected travelers: millions of sterile flies who are primed to go into battle against the Mediterranean fruit fly, a pest that has been wreaking havoc on citrus groves in Balkan countries.
The company growing the sterilized flies, BioBee from Sde Eliyahu in the Jordan Valley, specializes in developing natural and bio-friendly pesticides. It recently won a tender by the International Atomic Energy Agency to supply 400 million sterile flies, following a successful project conducted last year.
The sterile flies will be dispersed over a period of several months in citrus groves along the border of Croatia and Bosnia, and they are expected to push the harmful flies away from the groves, thus helping European farmers complete the season successfully.
The fly worms were raised in BioBee labs and underwent special sterilization in the factory’s radioactive facility, operating under the supervision of the Israeli Commission on Atomic Energy. They will be flown to Eastern Europe in a pupal stage and will only develop into flies when they reach their destination.
The IAEA supports the project as part of its plan to encourage use of nuclear technologies for peaceful purposes. BioBee won the tender despite competing with a Spanish firm which has won a similar deal in the same region in Eastern Europe in the past.
The project has been successfully implemented in Israel, especially in the western Negev. It allows farmers to minimize the use of poisonous pesticides, preserve the environment and sell healthier produce.