Can the solution to a big bug problem in food crops be… more bugs? Well, since the 1960s, we’ve been “teeming” up with a ferocious, tiny hunter with an insatiable appetite to combat one of the biggest annoyances in any gardener, farmer, or houseplant owners life. Here’s how this genius relationship is saving crops under attack around the world!

With a love for sucking the juices out of plants and a knack for reproducing quickly, a colony of two-spotted spider mites can kill a plant in seemingly no time. Which is, of course, a big problem for the people growing our food.

But while these pesky little arachnids are notoriously hard to get rid of, we’ve teamed up with another mite; someone whose favorite food is spider mites! With this relationship, farmers are able to bring us delicious strawberries every year, without using harmful chemicals.

Here’s a perfect example of the ways we can innovate by integrating with the systems of nature! Just check this out.

Image: Strawberries in a bucket sitting in a field

Source: Wikimedia

Bringing in the Mighty Mites!

The hero of our story today is a very small red mite known as Persimilis. Originally from Chile, it accidentally arrived in Germany in 1958, then spread to the Americas. In the early 1960s, researchers conducted experiments to see how well Persimilis controlled two-spotted spider mites, and found that it was very effective in eradicating them from cucumbers, ornamental ivy, tomatoes, roses, dahlias, and lima beans, as well as from plants in greenhouses. 1

As it turns out, while spider mites are sucking out the juices from plants, Persimilis is the perfect predator to stop them! As the vegetarians munch on the leaves, they cause vibrations, and the plants release pheromones that give away their position. This lets blind Persimilis find their way quickly to dinner.

Here’s one of my favorite creators, Deep Look, to show us how this alliance has worked out!

To find more phenomenal content from Deep Look, make sure you head on over to their YouTube channel and subscribe! They’re the perfect place to find tiny wonders that make every day more wonder-full.

We don’t need to start from scratch.

We humans have a habit of thinking that we need to come up with entirely new systems and solutions when we’re faced with new problems. Sometimes, sure, that’s necessary. But a lot of the time, our best “new” systems are repurposing ones that have been in place for thousands, if not millions of years.

More and more, we’re waking up to this knowledge that nature has already solved the problems we’re seeing. We’re harnessing the power of oysters to protect our homes, employing bison to restore prairie lands, and returning predators like wolves and otters back to their natural habitats to control populations and put ecosystems back in balance.

We’re even looking to tiny desert beetles to find out how we can collect more freshwater to combat our water crisis!

What other solutions could we find by studying the natural systems of our world and ensuring they keep existing? I’m sure that with everything, we’ll learn as we go. But the sooner we realize that these solutions are silently happening all around us all the time, the sooner we’ll be able to make these effective changes. And if we play by the rules that have already been tried and tested for millions of years, we can work with what we have to bring about a better world.

If you’re interested in other ways we’re bringing on animal friends in place of chemicals to control pests on our farms, you’re going to want to check these articles out next!

Birds have also been fabulous teammates in keeping pesky bugs from devastating our plants. Here’s how ducks and falcons are doing it!

5 minutes

Replacing DEET with Ducks?

With help from our friends, we could waddle our way into a healthier future! Lets see how this is happening in parts of our world today...

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Meet the World’s Fastest Animal

Turns out, we can team up with nature's quickest creature to increase our productivity and reduce our impact on the environment! Without further ado, let's make the introduction.

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As always, my friend, stay open to new possibilities. If we can find one of the most trusted biological control agents for keeping spider mites in line by bringing in more mites, what else can we do?

  • Sam

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Notes:

  1. “Biological Control – Section 3.” Ufl.edu, 2021, mrec.ifas.ufl.edu/lso/spmite/b853a3.htm. Accessed 1 Mar. 2021.
  2. Deep Look. “These Mites Rain down to Save Your Strawberries | Deep Look.” YouTube, 26 Jan. 2021, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1XFi9r3dIE&feature=emb_title. Accessed 1 Mar. 2021.

Sam Burns

Editor in Chief

Sam has written and edited hundreds of articles since joining the EWC team in 2016. She writes about topics from the wonders of nature to the organizations changing the world and the simple joys in life! Outside of the EWC office, she’s a part-time printmaker, collector of knick-knacks, and taster of cheeses.