Scientists at Moshav Ein Yahav in Israel’s southern Negev desert have perfected a method to prevent a grapevine pest from multiplying, deploying the bug’s own drive to reproduce as a weapon to destroy it. Moshav farmers release odors that indicate a female bug is in the area, and the consequent male mealybugs’s frenzied fruitless search for mates causes them to literally die of exhaustion thereby preventing the next generation of bugs from being born.
Vine mealybugs live wherever grapes are grown. They can be found on roots, vines, and on the grapes themselves. The bugs secrete a white substance, called honeydew, which eventually make the grapes unfit for human consumption by attracting ants or producing mold.
As part of its commitment to reduce the use of pesticides in battling the bug, at Moshav Ein Yahav, one of Israel’s largest farming communities has been using nature against the pests that damage crops. This has been made possible by the research on biological processes and conditions carried out at the Beauty of Vegetables facility.
Rami Sadeh, the company’s staff agronomist, noted that many innovations have been introduced at Ein Yahav including the introduction of predatory natural enemies to eliminate a wide range of insects that cause damage to many different crops. While some spraying of chemicals is still necessary, the farmers by using bugs to control pests have managed to cut pesticide use by about 80%.
A new system, which is being tested at the moshav, to battle these vine mealybugs involves the release of a compound that includes the pheromone to attract the male mealybugs to seek out the non-existent females, expend all their energy and perish.
After reporting on the highly successful preliminary tests on the system Rami Sadeh issued one caveat; all areas of the vineyards (Ein Yahav has 10 hectares, or 24.7 acres) must be treated at the same time, to ensure that all the males die.
Via the Times of Israel, published on October 10, 2014. Click here for the original article.