Thursday, April 24, 2008

Ancient grain borer reveals biblical pest control: study


An Israeli academic team says it has resolved the Biblical riddle of how Joseph the Dreamer preserved Egypt's vast, but unsealed grain stores against invading pests during the seven year drought and saved the country's inhabitants from mass starvation.

The secret lies in the burnt corpse of a 3,500 year old beetle found in a grain of wheat claim researchers (Kislev, Simhoni and Melamed) from the laboratory for archaeological botany in the Life Sciences Department at Bar Ilan University, Haaretz reported on Monday.

The beetle belongs to the highly destructive Rhyzopetha dominica species, commonly known as the Lesser Grain Borer, which invades wheat and barley stored in silos after it has been harvested in the field.

Each female Lesser Grain Borer lays between 300 and 500 eggs a month giving birth to thousands of insect larvae a year which bore into wheat or barley. The pest can eat up a silo within a very short time.

The insect originated in India where its larvae had once bored into trees. But several thousand years ago at the time of Joseph when the insect began its westward migration to Egypt and the Middle East, it changed its taste to wheat and barley.


Scrabcake said...

Interesting article on ancient pest control. I suppose I could have done without the biblical tie-in, though. I mean, obviously, the idea came from the Israelite Joseph when the technique was invented in africa. :P

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