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An insect from Spain saves crops in Europe

It is bred in San Vicente del Raspeig and it's called Sphaerophoria rueppellii. This is the scientific name of an insect that eats aphids and is helping save many crops, eliminating the annoying molasses left on the ground by trees like jacarandas when aphids attack them.

A biotechnology company created at the University of Alicante (UA) has become the first in the world to breed an insect indigenous to the Mediterranean that helps control aphid pests. They are exporting it for sale to producers, individuals and municipalities in Europe, including one from San Vicente, which has shown interest in its production.

It all started with studies and research in the department of Zoology. The promoter of this biotechnology company is Professor María Ángeles Marco, who first saw the potential of the insect to address a serious problem affecting greenhouses. According to the president of Bionostrum, Eduardo Galante, "aphid pests in crops and gardening are among the most difficult to tackle, and María Ángeles discovered an insect capable of attacking them which can also resist the greenhouses' high temperatures."

For his part, the director of Production, Javier Cabañas, points out that the importance of the use of insects is that they are a natural product that can replace chemical pesticides.

The insects are currently bred in a 700 square metre warehouse in the Canastell industrial estate, where thousands of specimens are raised. They are also starting to diversify their production to fight more pests, such as those affecting tomatoes and other crops. At this time, fourteen people are involved in the project, mostly graduates in Biology from the UA.

Bionostrum can produce up to 200,000 insects a week. The breeding takes place in isolated areas, where they are fed with an artificial compound that has also been developed by the company, and which is unique in the world, allowing them to cut costs. When the insect reaches the final larval stage, it becomes a pupa (like the chrysalis of butterflies). 

The insect is marketed in two ways: in pupa form as a preventive method or to fight against an imminent pest; or as eggs when the pest has already spread. Galante says that a hundred pupae cover about one hectare and several batches are required.


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