Michigan startup uses spider venom for the future of pesticides

By November 1, 2017

Spiders might not be the cuddliest or cutest of creatures, especially for the majority of us considering Arachnophobia is one of the most prolific phobias in society.

However, one Michigan-based startup has found a pretty good use for them.  Vestaron has utilized the venom of Australian funnel web spiders to produce a safe and environmentally friendly option for pesticides.

According to their website, safer insecticides are in high demand from regulators, growers, food retailers, and consumers. They also state, “The latest technology breakthroughs at Vestaron have proven an impressive safety profile; products require a zero-day pre-harvest interval and only need a four-hour re-entry interval.”

By using spider venom, the company can safely and effectively target new metabolic pathways of pests. Though the idea of using spider venom as a pesticide might sound scary for some, the company proudly claims that this solution is harmless to mammals (including humans), birds, fish, honey bees and other beneficial insects. It also provides a better alternative to fighting crop pests with harmful chemicals.

This novel use of spider venom is particularly promising as it tackles a serious problem within today’s use of insecticides. Insects are continuously evolving resistance to insecticides faster than the industry can innovate new solutions. As a result, thanks to molecular-based advancements, venom-based products within this market present a promising answer to this issue.

The company states on their website that “Vestaron’s peptide-derived products target entirely different insect pathways that no other company has pursued. The aggressive and natural components of spider venom make it the perfect ingredient to effectively target pests while avoiding toxic chemicals.”

Glenn King

The company was founded in 2005 by Glenn King, a molecular biologist now at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. He founded the company hoping to change the agricultural industry, with the main focus of providing a new form of pesticide using spider venom. The company experimented with funnel web spider venom which contains 3,000 different compounds.

“It’s an incredible, complex chemical cocktail that the funnel web spider throws at its insect prey to disable it,” Professor King said to The Sydney Morning Herald.

And there is good news for those of you with Arachnophobia, as Vestron is not filled with an army of eight-legged creatures on a constant milking cycle. Instead, the company uses a fermentation process from one sample of real venom.

“It wouldn’t be possible to milk funnel web spiders and get the quantity of venom we need,” adds King.