Spider mites, as seen in the photo above, can effect crops. Spider mites, as seen in the photo above, can effect crops. Spider mites, as seen in the photo above, can effect crops. (Photo: Floki /Shutterstock)

How carnivorous spiders will help save your daily cup of joe

600 million of them are on their way to Colombia to serve as a natural pesticide to protect the coffee crop.

Almost everyone needs their daily cup of coffee, but recently coffee plants in South America have faced a tiny yet menacing foe. But spiders – yes, we said spiders – are coming to the rescue.

The Colombian coffee crop is under attack from red spider mites that go from plant to plant sucking the cell contents off the leaves, destroying the epidermal tissue of the leaf. Rather than combating the pest with harsh chemicals, Colombian coffee farmers are turning to a natural and innovative solution. They are using carnivorous spider mites which eats the red ones.

Over the next year, some 600 million predatory mites will be sent to Colombia from BioBee Biological Systems , a company based in northern Israel. BioBee’s Bio Persimilis product has been used in California to protect strawberry farms since 1980, and it’s also effective for use with peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, beans, cucumber, melon and many flowers.

BioBee raises the spiders using natural selection to produce very large and hungry bugs. Bio Persimilis are twice the size of the red spider mite, and they need a constant source of nourishment. The best part is, the spiders aren’t interested in the plants at all; they’ll only eat the threatening spider mites that they’re being sent to control.

Bio Persimilis has a remarkably fast growth cycle, going from egg to adult in about a week. One bottle of it contains up to 4,000 carnivorous bugs, which begin to reproduce at a rate of tens of thousands per day as soon as they're released into their new environment.

The last time we wrote about BioBee, they were sending bumblebees from their organic farm in Israel to Japan to help with pollinating fruits, vegetables and flowers. The company has also provided 400 million sterilized fruit flies to help protect orchards on the border of Croatia and Bosnia. These natural but innovative solutions are helping farmers around the world limit the use of harmful pesticides.

“The idea is to undo the damage of chemical pest control and encourage what nature intended. We need to give nature a chance," explained Dr. Shimon Steinberg of BioBee. Steinberg, who majored in zoology at Tel Aviv University in Israel, makes the case for using good bugs to fight bad bugs in this TED Talk video:

Pesticides have been linked to cancer and other health issues. A study conducted by researchers at the University of California-Berkeley reported that pesticides are as harmful to children's health as cigarette smoke.

With the help of bugs from the company, farmers can reduce their pesticide use by up to 80% and at the same time grow crops that meet rigorous standards required for export to other countries.

So the next time you're about to enjoy a cup of coffee, you might have a spider to thank for it.


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Related Topics: Animals, Environment, Science