Local fruit flies that have undergone a special sterilization process in a radioactive facility will be exported to the Balkan countries in order to get rid of other flies that cause agricultural damage. The Israeli flies will be distributed for several months in orchards along the border between Croatia and Bosnia. Their purpose is to expel from the orchards fruit flies attacking agricultural crops.
Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu-based company BioBee Biological Systems, which develops natural enemies of agricultural pests and various biological pest control methods, will supply the flies. Male pupae from flies exported by the company will be stored in Styrofoam packing in a state of unconsciousness, and are due to emerge only after reaching their destination. They will awaken only in the air, after being distributed by light aircraft above the orchards on the border between Bosnia and Croatia. The mission of the Israeli flies will then begin: they will search out female fruit flies and mate with them, after which the females will lay sterile eggs. BioBee says that if the mating is successful, the female fruit fly will not mate again, leading to a significant reduction in the fruit fly population.
"We grow these fruit flies specifically for this purpose. They are sterilized with very accurate radiation at a facility supervised by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC)," BioBee CEO Shaul Bassi told "Globes" today. "The radiation is aimed so that only the flies' fertility is affected, because it is important that the flies' other characteristics be preserved, so that they can fulfill their mission."
The sterile flies will be distributed over the orchards twice a week in large concentrations, so that there will be 50 sterilized flies for every non-sterilized fly. The tender to supply 400 flies was led by the AEC in Vienna as part of its department for atomic energy used for peaceful purposes. The value of the contract between the AEC and BioBee is estimated at NIS 1 million. BioBee beat a Spanish company in the tender.
BioBee has been operated at Sde Eliyahu since the early 1980s, and began developing biological pest control methods using sterilized flies in the past decade. The company also grows wasps, mites, fleas, and various other insects that naturally attack the population of pests afflicting agricultural crops, thereby significantly reducing the need to use chemical pesticides that can damage the environment and the quality of the crops.
According to Bassi, Israeli farmers are also successfully dealing with fruit fly pests by using sterilized flies. These flies are being widely used in the western Negev and northern Israel, among other places.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on June 10, 2015
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