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Mite makes right

Israeli company’s tiny arachnids provide alternative to pesticide

Phytoseiulus persimilis loves the taste of the spider mites that destroy farmers’ crops; a new growing method promises endless supply of tiny soldiers

Phytoseiulus persimilis predatory mites (video screenshot)
Phytoseiulus persimilis predatory mites (video screenshot)

An Israeli agritech company is using the power of predatory mites to help farmers fight off crop infestations.

Phytoseiulus persimilis, a minuscule arachnid, has long been used as a natural alternative to pesticides, due to its particular appetite for the red spider mite, a bane of vegetable and fruit growers that feeds on plant leaves, quickly killing entire crops.

Persimilis has several benefits for farmers over using pesticides: the produce is healthier to consume, regulations for use are much simpler than when dealing with poisons, and unlike pesticides, the red mites can’t build up immunity against it.

But growing the tiny terminator has been difficult and costly, leaving the viability of the solution in question.

Haaretz reports on Israeli company BioBee, which it says has now developed a secretive, patented method of growing persimilis en masse in the lab. To do this, it managed to create a proprietary food alternative to its prey that persimilis will eat, while maintaining its appetite for the red mites when these are available.

The company promises its new production methods mean a neverending supply of hunter mites to farmers in Israel and around the world — an army of ravenous killers that target crop wreckers while leaving the plants themselves unharmed.

But what to do with the hordes of persimilis once the original pests are taken care of? That shouldn’t be a problem. Once the hunter mites run out of prey, they either leave or die out.

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