With spring coming, home gardeners are sprucing things up and getting ready for a burst of color as plants begin their annual bloom. And to preserve newly sprouted fruits and flowers, home gardeners will, as they do each year, apply copious amounts of pesticides to eliminate the bugs that feast on their gardens’ bounty.
Pesticide use has never been greater nor more lethal, as manufacturers up their game to beat bugs that have developed resistance to earlier, gentler doses of pesticides.
But Israeli agritech firm BioBee has a better idea: Use natural insect predators of instead of dangerous chemicals to attack garden infiltrators. BioBee’s “garden variety” spiders and parasitic wasps leave plants alone, but they seek out and destroy common mites, aphids, and moths, and more. They are now available retail, for the first time.
BioBee has been in the bug business for over two decades, breeding insects to defend farms, crops, orchards, and other commercial fruit growing sites. Last year, the company sent 600 million giant-sized spider mites to Colombian farmers to help them battle the smaller spider mites that threaten Colombia’s coffee crop; spider mites attack their own, and the strain that BioBee raised and released are interested only in spider mites, not plants.
Before that, BioBee sent millions of sterile fruit flies to Croatia in order to mate with fruit flies that were plaguing the country’s citrus crop. The BioBee fruit flies satisfied the females’ need for cohabitation, but as they were sterile, no offspring were produced – eliminating the infestation within the several weeks it took the last generation of fertile females to die off.
While not genetically engineered, BioBee’s line of predatory insects are unique enough to qualify for patents. The company has developed strains of insects – wasps, spiders and others – which (via natural selection) are “trained” to attack pests like aphids, thrips, and mites that cause untold billions annually in crop losses.
Now, the company is bringing that technology home – to the home garden. Israelis will be able to go into any number of gardening stores and buy pre-packaged BioBee bugs, complete with instructions on how to get the most out of them to battle the predators that are destroying their gardens. The insects are generally microscopic in size, and a little box can contain tens of thousands of hungry insects. BioBee’s bugs are not dangerous to humans, animals, or plants, says the company – just pests, so when they take care of the bugs in a user’s garden, they will just migrate to another feasting ground.
The bugs will be available at outlets of the Hydroshop chain in the Jerusalem, Haifa, and Tel Aviv areas. If the local retail experiment works, said the company, the idea may be exported elsewhere as well.
BioBee, headquartered at Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, is one of the world’s biggest companies in the biological pesticide. With products sold in over 50 countries, the company said, “we believe that biological pest control and natural pollination solutions are better and more sustainable than chemical solutions.”