Under a Veil of Secrecy, an Army of Carnivorous Spiders Is Being Raised in Northern Israel

After nearly a decade of top-secret research, scientists in Israel have found a substitute for chemical pesticides that are sprayed on fruits and vegetables. The organic alternative involves the mass production of a particularly gluttonous female relative of the spider family

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Meirav Moran
Meirav Moran
Meirav Moran
Meirav Moran

It’s tiny, frenetic and voracious, a single gram of it can cost $600, and for years Israel has been considered its top exporter. Meet Phytoseiulus persimilis, a predatory mite, and member of the arachnida class. In the Beit She’an Valley in northern Israel, thousands of them are packed in small salt shaker-type containers or tea bag-like packets for dispatch to strawberry fields in California, clementine orchards in Spain, berry bushes in Mexico and greenhouses in Colombia and Canada where roses and cannabis are cultivated. Thanks to the superb predatory abilities of persimilis, farmers raising these crops prefer deploying it over use of chemical pesticides.

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