|"Come on now - spit it out!"|
A headline caught my eye recently “Government funded spider venom project to provide lifeline for bees”. I immediately had a mental image of scientist in a white coat, surrounded by happy buzzing bees, talking to a large, captive spider and saying “spit your venom out and I promise to let you go”!
Apparently this is a £1 million project led by Arch UK Biocides Limited and in collaboration with the University of Durham, the Food and Research Agency (FERA) and I2LRESEARCH LTD, which will receive over £650,000 from Government to further develop an environmentally friendly pesticide which is harmless to non-target species including bees. This next generation pesticide will use naturally occurring peptides, found in spider venom, to produce an orally effective treatment which can be produced commercially.
Venom peptides, known to be harmless to mammals, are fused to a ‘carrier’ protein that can then be applied to crops on a large scale. When treated crops are eaten by pests, such as slugs or beetles, the ‘carrier’ protein transports the spider toxin from the pests gut and into the nervous system; eradicating the threat without impacting on other species.
That is a very bold statement this early on - "without impacting on other species"! We shall see - but lets hope that given extensive trials, scientists can indeed make it "target specific".
The initial programme will develop formulations targeting slugs and beetle pests of wheat and oil seed rape.