As thousands of tonnes of UK-grown strawberries roll into supermarkets, few consumers will appreciate the vital work being done by an unsung army of spiders, wasps and bees.
But behind the glass or plastic frames, this hidden workforce is ensuring the high quality of our fresh produce and elongating the summer season. The beneficial bugs of Essex don’t get a lot of credit, but perhaps it’s time that Clacton’s finest took a bow.
As one of the world's leading agribusinesses, you might be surprised that Syngenta has such a large interest in beneficial bugs. But in fact we are the largest producer in the UK.
Every year our Clacton factory breeds 200 billion beneficial bugs that patrol tunnels and greenhouses working alongside pesticides to keep pests at bay.
The whole concept of integrated crop management using bugs and pesticides to meet retailer protocols started with UK tomato growers and has now become the industry standard.
Their work is not just confined to these shores. Millions of our Essex-reared predators are bugging the Elysée Palace, or at least the orangery there. A regular consignment is flown over to Paris to protect President Chirac’s citrus fruit.
The bugs also take a long-haul ride courtesy of the RAF every Sunday night on a flight from Brize Norton.
The RAF carries the special consignment to Port Stanley, capital of The Falkland Islands and the world’s most southerly producer of fresh produce.
The lettuce and tomatoes are the stuff of legend among the scientific community of the South Atlantic, as well as holidaymakers, although initially the RAF had severe reservations about carrying boxes marked ‘Wasps, Danger’!
Whether it’s bees for pollination, spiders to eat the red spider mite, or wasps to gorge on aphids, the Bio-line packets of bugs hang in some of the hottest and most fashionable glass houses.
It’s a great example of British agricultural knowhow and expertise being enjoyed by growers across the world.
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