Shimon Steinberg: Natural pest control … using bugs!

I’m a bug lover, myself — not from childhood, by the way, but rather late. When I bachelored, majoring in zoology
at Tel Aviv University, I kind of fell in love with bugs. And then, within zoology, I took the course
or the discipline of entomology, the science of insects. And then I thought to myself,
how can I be practical or help in the science of entomology? And then I moved to the world
of plant protection — plant protection from insects, from bad bugs. And then within plant protection, I came into the discipline
of biological pest control, which we actually define as the use of living organisms to reduce populations
of noxious plant pests. So it’s a whole discipline
in plant protection aimed at the reduction of chemicals. And biological pest control, by the way, or these “good bugs”
that we are talking about, they’ve existed in the world
for thousands and thousands of years, for a long, long time. But only in the last 120 years, people started, or people
knew more and more how to exploit, or how to use,
this biological control phenomenon, or in fact, natural control phenomenon, for their own needs. Because biological control phenomenon —
you can see it in your backyard. Just take a magnifying glass.
You see what I have here? That’s a magnifier, times 10. You just open it, twist leaves, and you see a whole new world
of minute insects, or little spiders of one millimeter,
one-and-a-half, two millimeters long, and you can distinguish
between the good ones and the bad ones. So this phenomenon of natural control
exists literally everywhere. Here, in front of this building, I’m sure. Just have a look at the plants. So it’s everywhere,
and we need to know how to exploit it. Well, let’s go hand by hand and browse through just a few examples. What is a pest? What damage does it actually
inflict on the plant? And what is the natural enemy, the biological control agent,
or the “good bug” that we’re talking about? In general, I’m going to talk
about insects and spiders, or mites, let us call them. Insects, those six-legged organisms and spiders or mites,
the eight-legged organisms. Let’s have a look at that. Here is a devastating pest, a spider mite, because it does a lot
of webbing, like a spider. You see the mother in between, and two daughters, probably,
on the left and right, and a single egg on the right-hand side. And then you see
what kind of damage it can inflict. On your right-hand side,
you can see a cucumber leaf, in the middle, a cotton leaf, and on the left, a tomato leaf
with these little stipplings. They can literally turn
from green to white, because of the sucking, piercing
mouth parts of those spiders. But here comes nature,
that provides us with a good spider. This is a predatory mite —
just as small as a spider mite; one, two millimeters long,
not more than that — running quickly, hunting,
chasing the spider mites. And here, you can see this lady
in action on your left-hand side — just pierces, sucks the body fluids
on the left-hand side of the pest mite. And after five minutes,
this is what you see: just a typical dead corpse — the shriveled, sucked-out,
dead corpse of the spider mite, and next to it, two satiated
individuals, predatory mites, a mother on the left-hand side,
a young nymph on the right-hand side. By the way, a meal for them for 24 hours, is about five of the spider mites,
of the bad mites, and-or 15 to 20 eggs of the pest mites. By the way, they are always hungry. (Laughter) And here is another example: aphids. It’s springtime now in Israel. When temperatures rise sharply, you can see those bad ones,
those aphids, all over the plants — in your hibiscus, in your lantana, in the young, fresh foliage
of the so-called spring flush. By the way, with aphids you have
only females, like Amazons. Females giving rise to females,
giving rise to other females. No males at all. Parthenogenesis, as it’s so called. And they’re very happy
with that, apparently. (Laughter) Here we can see the damage. Those aphids secrete a sticky,
sugary liquid called honeydew, and this just clogs
the upper parts of the plant. Here you see a typical cucumber leaf
that turned from green to black because of a black fungus, sooty mold,
which is covering it. And here comes the salvation,
through this parasitic wasp. Here we are not talking about a predator. Here we are talking a parasite — not a two-legged parasite, but an eight-legged parasite, of course. This is a parasitic wasp, again, two millimeters long, slender,
a very quick and sharp flier. And here you can see
this parasite in action, like in an acrobatic maneuver. She stands vis-à-vis in front of the victim
at the right-hand side, bending its abdomen
and inserting a single egg into the body fluids of the aphid. By the way, the aphid tries to escape. She kicks and bites
and secretes different liquids, but nothing will happen, in fact — only the egg of the parasitoid
will be inserted into the body fluids of the aphid. And after a few days,
depending upon temperature, the egg will hatch and the larva of this parasite
will eat the aphid from the inside. (Laughter) This is all natural. This is all natural. This is not fiction, nothing at all. Again — in your backyard.
In your backyard. (Laughter) (Applause) But this is the end result: mummies. This is the visual result
of a dead aphid encompassing inside, a developing parasitoid that,
after a few minutes, you see halfway out. The birth is almost complete. You can see, by the way,
in different movies, etc., it takes just a few minutes. And if this is a female,
she’ll immediately mate with a male and off she goes,
because time is very short. This female can live
only three to four days, and she needs to give rise
to around 400 eggs. That means she has 400 bad aphids to put her eggs into their body fluids. This is, of course, not the end of it. There is a whole wealth
of other natural enemies and this is just the last example. Again, we’ll start first with the pest: the thrips. By the way, all these weird names — I didn’t bother you with the Latin
names of these creatures, just the popular names. But this is a nice,
slender, very bad pest. If you can see this: sweet peppers. This is not just an exotic,
ornamental sweet pepper. This is a sweet pepper
which is not consumable because it is suffering
from a viral disease transmitted by those thrip adults. And here comes the natural enemy,
minute pirate bug — “minute,” because it is rather small. Here you can see the adult,
black, and two young ones. And again, in action. This adult pierces the thrips, sucking it within just several minutes, going to the other prey,
continuing all over the place. And if we spread those minute
pirate bugs, the good ones, for example, in a sweet pepper plot, they go to the flowers. And look — this flower is flooded
with predatory bugs, with the good ones, after wiping out the bad ones, the thrips. So this is a very positive situation. No harm to the developing fruit.
No harm to the fruit set. Everything is just fine
under these circumstances. But again, the question is, here you saw them on a one-to-one basis —
the pest, the natural enemy. What we do is actually this. In Northeast Israel,
in Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, there is a facility that mass-produces
those natural enemies. In other words, what we do there
is amplify the natural control, or the biological control phenomenon. And in 30,000 square meters
of state-of-the-art greenhouses, there, we are mass-producing
those predatory mites, those minute pirate bugs, those parasitic wasps, etc. Many different parts. By the way, they have
a very nice landscape — you see the Jordanian Mountains
on the one hand, and the Jordan Valley on the other hand, and a good, mild winter
and a nice, hot summer, which is an excellent condition
to mass-produce those creatures. And by the way, mass-production —
it is not genetic manipulation. There are no GMOs — genetically
modified organisms — whatsoever. We take them from nature, and the only thing that we do
is give them the optimal conditions, under the greenhouses
or in the climate rooms, in order to proliferate,
multiply and reproduce. And that’s what we get. You see under a microscope. You see in the upper left corner?
You see a single predatory mite. And this is the whole bunch
of predatory mites. You see this ampul. You see this one. I have one gram of those predatory mites. One gram is 80,000 individuals. 80,000 individuals are good enough
to control one acre, 4,000 square meters, of a strawberry plot against spider mites for the whole season of almost one year. And we can produce
from this, believe you me, several dozens of kilograms
on an annual basis. So this is what I call
amplification of the phenomenon. And no, we do not disrupt the balance. On the contrary, because we bring it to every cultural plot where the balance was already disrupted by the chemicals. Here we come with those natural enemies in order to reverse
a little bit of the wheel and to bring more natural balance
to the agricultural plot by reducing those chemicals. That’s the whole idea. And what is the impact? In this table, you can
actually see what is an impact of a successful biological
control by good bugs. For example, in Israel, where we employ
more than 1,000 hectares — 10,000 dunams in Israeli terms — of biological pests
controlling sweet pepper under protection, 75 percent of the pesticides
were actually reduced. And Israeli strawberries, even more — 80 percent of the pesticides, especially those aimed
against pest mites in strawberries. So the impact is very strong. And there goes the question, especially if you ask
growers, agriculturists: Why biological control? Why good bugs? By the way, the number of answers you get equals the number of people you ask. But if we go, for example,
to this place, Southeast Israel, the Arava area
above the Great Rift Valley, where the pearl of Israeli
agriculture is located, especially under greenhouse conditions,
or under screenhouse conditions — if you drive all the way
to Eilat, you see this just in the middle of the desert. And if you zoom in, you can definitely watch this: grandparents with their grandchildren, distributing the natural
enemies, the good bugs, instead of wearing special clothes and gas masks and applying chemicals. So safety, with respect
to the application, is the number one answer
that we get from growers, for “Why biological control?” Number two, many growers
are, in fact, petrified by the idea of resistance, that the pests will become
resistant to the chemicals, just like in our case, that bacteria
becomes resistant to antibiotics. It’s the same, and it can
happen very quickly. Fortunately, in either biological control
or even natural control, resistance is extremely rare. It hardly happens. Because this is evolution,
this is the natural ratio, unlike resistance, which happens
in the case of chemicals. And thirdly, public demand. The more the public demands
the reduction of chemicals, the more growers become aware of the fact that they should, wherever they can
and wherever possible, replace the chemical control
with biological control. Even here, there is another grower, you see, very interested in the bugs,
the bad ones and the good ones, wearing this magnifier
already on her head, just walking safely in her crop. Finally, I want to get to my vision, or, in fact, to my dream. Because, you see, this is the reality. Have a look at the gap. If we take the overall turnover of the biocontrol industry worldwide, it’s 250 million dollars. And look at the overall pesticide industry in all the crops throughout the world. I think it’s times 100
or something like that. Twenty-five billion. So there is a huge gap to bridge. So actually, how can we do it? How can we bridge, or let’s say,
narrow, this gap over the years? First of all, we need to find more robust, good and reliable biological solutions, more good bugs that we can
either mass-produce or actually conserve in the field. Secondly, to create even more intensive
and strict public demand for the reduction of chemicals
in agricultural fresh produce. And thirdly, also to increase
awareness by the growers to the potential of this industry. And this gap really narrows. Step by step, it does narrow. So I think my last slide is: All we are saying —
we can actually sing it — Give nature a chance. I’m saying it on behalf
of all the biocontrol practitioners and implementers, in Israel and abroad, really give nature a chance. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “Shimon Steinberg: Natural pest control … using bugs!

  1. 5:39 f: dis.gusting … but extremely entertaining rendition and ultimately rather useful knowledge. nobody ever said nature wasn't genocidal.

  2. I'm sorry, but someone that's supporting the occupying regime of an artificial country that has forced its presence in the region by exterminating the local population has no right to say "give nature a chance".

  3. Would the bugs need to be region specific? I know introducing bugs to an eco-system is sometimes devastating, how would we control this?

  4. permaculture takes care of these problems naturally. Also, Paul Stamets already founds ways of controlling household pests with mushrooms…

  5. just finished writing a report about using bugs for plant-protection for my boss… thought I deserved a little break… wanted to see what's new on youtube… damn… I feel followed right now…

  6. Yeah… they tried this in the Everglades with beetles trying to destroy a invasive tree species, the beetles were supposed to be sterile, most weren't… so to eat the beetles they bring these giant Bufo toads to eat them, which are poisonous to native animals that eat them and breed like mad.

  7. @crackyflipside I agree. It is very dangerous to introduce a non-native species to an area. You can't know EVERYTHING that will come from it.

  8. Notice all the labeling of "bad" we do this to propagate genocide. Nothing in nature is "bad" nor is it "good" they simply are. And they naturally balance within margins. We create imbalance and we call it "good".

  9. i bet there will be so many racistic idiots that will dislike this video -_-… pretty intersting actually i dont really like bugs or talks about them but that one is nice :]

  10. Nature is red in tooth and claw.
    Such horror, as the prey is devoured from the inside, while still alive.
    This kind of thing is why Charles Darwin doubted that a loving and benevolent God could have designed the natural world.

  11. @briansmobile1 Good and bad have many meanings, but they are all in a human context. A thing can be good for an individual, good for a family, good for a community, and rarely, good for all humanity.
    I agree that there can be no good for a rock. Nature has no perspective, no good or bad.
    But to say that our calling something "good" is meaningless is to discount the value of human beings, either to ourselves or to each other.

  12. @GrudgyDiablo How 'bout this: This dude is a Jew. He is using his mind, hard work, and creative vision to make money and to make the world better at the same time. This kind of thing is more likely to come from a Jew than from a Palestinian. The arid desert that is in the control of the Palestinian is much more likely to remain arid and unproductive. I hope the Palestinians can come to learn capitalism as well as the Jews know it.
    I hope this bug farmer gets really rich!!!

  13. @GrudgyDiablo You grudgy devil you! ; P balance is a state of equilibrium and sustainability neither is relative. Relativity is a paradigm that is the narrow interpretation made by humans. Though it is all we have it isn't everything so share some more of your brilliant insights… this is fun you provocatively thinking genius!

  14. Yes these 'good' insects may have their limitations or cause imbalances in their habitat, but this is a much better solution as compared to the tons of insecticides that we soak our crops in.

  15. @GrudgyDiablo In this case the sustainability is the key. I'm talking about creatures coexisting with each other and even though the population of one set may increase or decrease RELATIVE to the other– their relationship works out such that one doesn't annihilate the existence of the other. P Discovery is a constant process as long as you don't quit and turn inward to reprogrammed decisions when faced with a challenge.

  16. Good talk, WRONG FONT for presentation.
    Use Comic Sans for the invitation to the birthday party of your kid, NOT for a TED talk.

  17. This guy knows his stuff for the most part. The only thing that kind of worries me is the thought of trying to exploit these natural processes and bring them into agriculture and a pest management scheme overall. In the past, this hasn't worked very well. In Australia, the Cain Toad was brought in to control beetles destroying sugar cane crops. Now, they have problems controlling the Cain Toad because it's toxic to local predators. What will control these "good bugs"?

  18. @Iknowamy – I don't know for sure, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Strawberries and Sweet Peppers aren't native to Israel. However, it's not really possible to contain agriculture to only indigenous crops. Corn isn't native to the Great Plains of the US. Peanuts and Cotton aren't native to the Southeast US. This shoots a hole in the whole theory.

  19. @marcus3379 The speaker doesn't embody Israeli foreign policy. He's a scientist trying to solve a problem which affects all of us, don't demean his work in this way.

  20. @briansmobile1 i completely agree with this comment. if there is some superior race overlooking the planet, they will definitely consider humans as "bad" creatures making the earth sick. we make all these choices for what is the best for us, and never considering the bigger picture.

  21. @briansmobile1 Well, he's not using the words in the context of nature, but in the context of an agricultural industry, so yes, he is right to use those words. As for an imbalance in nature, nature is never in balance. If it ever were, then evolution would not happen anymore. Humans are a part of nature. What we do to the environment and to other species is just another cogwheel in the machine that is biological evolution on this planet.

  22. @briansmobile1 The imbalance is already existing. Therefore we should use bio-control to reduce the use of chemicals and thus reduce the imbalance. This may result in another imbalance but I think it is better than the currently existing imbalance. Thus, it is good.

  23. @briansmobile1 Agreed that people throw around "good" and "bad" too much, and in incorrect ways. You can say something is bad, FOR a defined goal. Viewed as a multidimentional optimization problem, any variable resulting in a less optimal result for what you are solving may be called bad, and more optimal good. Due to complexities of multidimentional problems, two variables that generally result in less optimal results alone may give a positive contribution if both are at a given point.

  24. @valon18 I'm confused. Are you saying that he's breeding a race of giant predatory mites that will go around sucking out peoples bodily fluids? Or that its actually people who lay there eggs inside aphids, not wasps?

  25. @Phyrexious – agreed
    however, what animals are the most frequently toxic? insects. You have to be careful when introducing insects to new areas.

  26. @Phyrexious – Absolutely correct. I'm with you, I'm just pointing out that the most frequently toxic animals on the planet are insects. This further complicates your point. I'm with you 110%

  27. @Phyrexious – There is the law of unforeseen circumstances. What if you introduce an insect that is not toxic to the creatures it's evolved next to, but is toxic to the creatures in its new setting? You have to be incredibly careful when doing this, because introducing what may seem like a non-toxic insect may cause a die-off of what was meant to be its predator in the new setting, and this causes instability down the line. The point is, with life, you never know for sure what will happen.

  28. @Phyrexious – The Cain Toad is one, where local wildlife can feed on it all day despite poison glands. I think there's a few other examples. Also bacteria and parasites carried by non-toxic critters have demolished native populations of animals. One would be bubonic plague carried by rats demolishing the population of ground squirrels out here.

  29. @818doodooroo Commerce and families are the absolute foundation of all civilisation and culture.
    Us Jews are also rightfully stereotyped as having very tight, supportive families.
    Thank you for noticing one of our great contributions to the world.

  30. Got 3 seconds?
    There's something wierd at 14:10, he says it's "about a hundred times or something", although the figure on the screen says 2.5 Billion$.
    A second later he was magically right.


  31. the reason we have problems with pest in agriculture is that in most agriculture nature is out of balance. using massiv monoculture, that leads to pest because it is delicately for it, and than try to control it by massproduce a other pest doesn´t make it any better. we need substainable agriculture like permaculture!

  32. @sexyloser That doesn't mean we shouldn't work on making this planet livable for all and sustainable. If that's what we choose to do that too is the natural cycle of the human evolution and this planet. Lets just make the smart decision instead of turning against our planet.

  33. @BrutusAlbion The planet will be fine with or without us. There is bacteria that can digest nylon, a substance that didn't exist until the 20th century. That is how quickly life adapts to anything we humans can throw at it.

    Make no mistake, it's not the planet that needs saving; it is us humans that need it.

  34. @sexyloser I know the story about the bacteria that can digest nylon. However that is not to say that mother nature can handle everything we throw at it. Make no mistake it is not nature which needs to be saved, It is us that need to be saved from nature if we keep this pace up. Nature adapts fast, but not in a human generations time. We can destroy the entire planet in a generation. Nature needs atleast 10 generations to recooperate. And adaptation is much harder for non single celled organisms

  35. @BrutusAlbion We can not destroy the planet at all. The biosphere will be here long after nuclear winters and runaway greenhouse effects have taken their toll on life as it is, but then life will adapt to the new environment and flourish once again. That is the full extent of our "damage" to our planet; some radiation and some heat. That is nothing. Life will be fine. We and other macroscopic organisms won't, but in the big picture, we're not that important to the survival of life on this planet

  36. @superdiza

    it's the difference between the "placed over" slide which was prepped and inserted, and the slides he used. someone doing the transcribing rushed it.

  37. @sexyloser Great buddy, but my interest is in making sure that macroscopic life stays alive for the time being. We're too big of a factor to be considered natural. We're taking baby steps into progressing beyond planets and mortality. It's time we grow up and take responsibility for more than just ourselves. Unless ofcourse u really dont give a rats ass 🙂

  38. @BrutusAlbion There have been five major mass extinctions in the past and the last few times, macroscopic life was wiped out, only to evolve back into existance again. Evolution is just too robust for some environmental changes to stop. It would take something like the complete annihilation of the atmosphere or a global average temperature of 900 degrees to stop life as we know it. Neither of which I see happening due to our bumbling.

    Macroscopic life, in some form or another, will find a way

  39. @sexyloser Again I know and agree with all you are saying here, You are merely reciting facts. The question we pose here, should we LET ourselves be the cause of another great extinction or not. We have a choice to make in this regard. I don't really care which way it goes, life goes on and so will the human species. However it is a choice we should make for our future.

  40. @florencelovme the reason is that while crop plants can be relatively innocuous and controllable in a new environment – insects on the other hand can be quite invasive.

    Here in Australia we have had a lot of problems with invasive predatory animals and insects. The cane toad was stupidly introduced to control a beetle that damaged sugar cane plantations – but the toad has itself become a huge pest spreading across the entire country and damaging the native ecosystems.

  41. @florencelovme you can say the same thing about chemicals. If properly controlled they are fine.

    bugs are harder to keep under control than chemicals are, because they have legs and wings.

    And just think of it – if bugs were easy to control as a rule – there would be no need to use pesticides or predatory insects in the first place. The very fact that we DO need to use such things shows that bugs are hard to control.

  42. @superdiza its a correction. he gave the wrong statistic. you cant change video recordings, but you can fix slides.

  43. Interesting. I'm just a back garden grower and gastropods small and large white cabbage moth are the main pest

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