Farmers to use spider venom to protect crops
Farmers and bugs typically have a hate-hate relationship. Insects eat up valuable wheat, barley, and soybeans, and farmers slay them dead using an arsenal of chemical weapons (a.k.a. pesticides). But no longer. Australian growers may soon form an alliance with their new best buggy friends: spiders.
Researchers at the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience found that tarantula, orb spider, and funnel web spider venom actually makes a super-effective, all-natural pesticide. Not only that, but scientists envision using the earth-friendly spider venom to control agricultural pests and wipe out disease vectors like mosquitoes.
Glenn King, head of the institute’s spider research team, said the most deadly insecticides were found in primitive spider species that kill their prey by jumping on them and sinking in their fangs, without first entangling or trapping them in a web. His research team has discovered that the poisonous venom of just one species of Australian funnel-web spider contains as many as 500 different insecticidal proteins, each with potency and target species.
Every tiny protein could, in theory, be “manufactured’ by scientists using bacteria to produce commercial quantities of it converted into a natural biodegradable insecticide, each effective against different insects or grubs such as aphids, thrips, locusts and caterpillars.
Don’t look for spider venom sprays anytime soon: King says it will likely take five to seven years before the all-natural insecticides are field-ready. But still, our spidey sense tells us that this research is going to be huge.
- Spider fangs may become the farmers' friend , The Australian
Get Grist in your inbox