Photo Credit: courtesy / Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu

by Mara Vigevani

Some 33 million sterilized male flies a week will be dropped by plane over 35,000 dunams of orchards along the Gaza Belt in a bid to rid the area of the Ceratitis Capitata, the Mediterranean Fruit Fly, which causes damage to a wide range of fruit crops.

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The larvae will be stored in the planes at a low temperature in a state of unconsciousness and will come to life as soon as they are exposed to ambient temperatures.

Once freed over the fields the sterilized flies, which are at the height of their sexual maturity, will search for female fruit flies and mate with them, after which the females will produce sterile eggs.

According to BioBee, a Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu-based developer of biological control solutions for agriculture, the female fruit flies will opt to mate with the sterilized flies over younger flies, as the sterilized flies are at the peak of their sexual maturity.

The sterilized flies will be dropped over the orchards twice a week in large concentrations, so that there will be 50 sterilized flies for every non-sterilized fly, reducing the probability that a female fly will mate with a fertile male to almost zero.

In the event that the planes can not fly over the Gaz Belt because of security reasons or bad weather the flies can be released from vans.

“We have to spread the flies twice a week year-round because the flies reproduce very quickly,” Shimon Steinberg, BioBee’s head of research and development told Tazpit Press Service (TPS).

“We have used this method since 2004 in the Gaza periphery area but now, thanks to the cooperation of the Ministry of Agriculture, we are expanding the area of action.”

The project is expected to save the use of 33,000 liters of chemical pesticides that farmers would have use to get rid of the flies artificially.

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