Save Our Sabras
The sabra—the prickly pear that is the quintessential symbol of the Israeli—is under threat of extinction. Over the past year, farmers in Israel’s north have found that a scale insect, or aphid, used in other countries to control prickly pear growth is attacking their bushes and could wipe out the species here. The attacker, the first of its kind in Israel, is believed to have come from Lebanon, said David Brand, chief forester of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael– Jewish National Fund.
Scientists at Israel’s Volcani Center recommended a first-line biological counterattack using ladybugs—a method that is greener but more costly than spraying pesticides—and 150,000 of them have been set to work. But ladybugs are not specific predators of scale insects, and it is not certain they will survive the winter, Brand said.
So, while scientists study the ladybugs’ life cycle, “we are already working on importing specific predators,” Brand said, “but that could take two to three years.”