Dr. Itai Opatovsky

Dr. Itai Opatovsky
Research Group Leader

Lab Website

Research Interests:

The field of insect mass rearing as food and feed or as products of biological control is developing rapidly and can improve dramatically utilizing the innovative capabilities of Israel. Mass rearing of insects relies greatly on nutritional composition of their diet. Understanding these nutritional requirements and their effect on insect physiology holds the promise to ripen into applied, efficient and sustainable solutions meeting the market demands.  

Hence, my future research is aimed at:

1) Increasing product quantity – As mass rearing of insects is a relatively new enterprise, there is little accumulated knowledge regarding the optimal diet each farmed species (crickets, mealworms, others) requires to support its maximal productivity, as opposed to other livestock. Exhaustive study correlating nutrient composition to insects' efficient growth is in high priority. Such research will test artificial diets and their effect on the fecundity, survival, and population growth rates of the insects. Diets' ingredients choice, their processing methods and storage conditions all should be industry oriented – to stand the test of upscaling from lab bench to reactor.

2) Increasing product quality –The ambition to produce novel, competitive products in the world market can be accomplished by manipulating the product composition. For example, larvae of Black Soldier Fly (BSF) are grown for animal feed. Producing larvae with higher concentration of specific fatty acid will be a cutting edge product. This manipulation must be supported by innovative basic research such as next-generation sequencing and bioinformatics analysis to understand the insect's metabolic pathways, or gene manipulation of gene transcription using gene editing to produce over-expression of targeted nutrients.

In addition, most insects rely on symbiotic microorganisms to provide them with vital nutrients. Therefore, understanding (and possibly, boosting) these basic metabolic interactions is an essential stage for metabolic composition manipulation of the insects, therefore influencing their quality as food source.


2005 - B.Sc. in Life Science at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel

2008 - M.Sc. in Ecology at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel

2013 - Ph.D. in Ecology at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel

Academic and research positions:

2014 Postdoctoral position at Agricultural Research Organization, Neve Ya'ar, Israel

2015-2019 Research Scientist at the Agricultural Research and Development Station, Besor, Israel

2019- Today Teaching Fellow – Tel Hai College, Department of Animal Science

2019 - Today Investigator – Migal, Department of Nutrition

Scientific Publications

How to reduce waste using black soldier fly larvae and produce a high-quality product

T. Ben-Mordechai, R. Gutman, L. Shaltiel-Harpaz and I. Opatovsky
Journal of Insects as Food and Feed

Effect of entomopathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana on the growth characteristics and metabolism of black soldier fly larvae

Mani, K., Vitenberg, T., Khatib, S., & Opatovsky, I.
Pesticide Biochemistry and Physiology

A review on nutritional and non-nutritional interactions of symbiotic and associated fungi with insect

Mani Kannan, Itai Opatovsky

Comparative untargeted metabolic analysis of natural- and laboratory-reared larvae of black soldier fly, Hermetia illucens (L.) (Diptera: Stratiomyidae)

Mani K., Vitenberg T., Ben-Mordechai l., Schweitzer R., Opatovsky I
Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part B: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Effect of yeast supplementation on growth parameters and metabolomics of black soldier fly larvae, Hermetia illucens (L.) (Diptera: Stratiomyidae).

Mani K., Vitenberg T., Ben-Mordechai l., Khatib S., Opatovsky I.
Journal of Insects as Food and Feed

Assessing fungal diversity and abundance in the black soldier fly and its environment

Vitenberg T., Opatovsky I.
Journal of Insect Science

Tomato cultivars resistant or susceptible to spider mites differ in their biosynthesis and metabolic profile of the monoterpenoid pathway

Weinblum N., Cna'ani A., Yaakov B., Sadeh A., Avraham L., Opatovsky I., Tzin V
Frontiers in Plant Science

Does consumption of baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) by black soldier fly (Diptera: Stratiomyidae) larvae affect their fatty acid composition

Opatovsky I., Vitenberg T., Jonas-Levi A., Gutman R.
Journal of Insect Science

First Report of Lettuce Big Vein Disease Caused by Olpidium spp., Mirafiori Lettuce Big-Vein Virus, and Lettuce Big-Vein Associated Virus in Israel

Opatovsky I., Elbaz M, Tsror (Lahkim) L. and Dombrovsky A

Control of lettuce big‐vein by application of fungicides and crop covers

Opatovsky I., Elbaz M, Dori I, Avraham L., Mordechai-Lebiush S., Dombrovsky A. and Tsror (Lahkim) L.

An eco-systems biology approach for modeling trophic networks of plant sucking insects and their bacterial symbionts.

Opatovsky I., Santos-Garcia D., Lahav T., Ofaim S., Zchori-Fein E. and Freilich S.

Use of alternative habitats by spiders in a desert agroecosystem

Opatovsky I., Musli I., Weintraub P.G. and Lubin Y.

Various competitive interactions explain niche separation in crop-dwelling web spiders.

Opatovsky I., Gavish-Regev E., Weintraub P.G. and Lubin Y.

Effects of non-native Eucalyptus plantations on epigeal spider communities in the northern Negev desert, Israel

Herrmann J.D., Opatovsky I., Lubin Y., Entling M.H., Pluess T. and Gavish-Regev E.

Molecular characterization of the differential role of immigrant and agrobiont generalist predators in pest suppression

Opatovsky I., Chapman E.G., Weintraub P.G., Lubin Y. and Harwood J.D.

Coping with abrupt decline in habitat quality: effects of harvest on spider abundance and movement

Opatovsky I. and Lubin Y.

Non-crop habitats in the landscape enhance spider diversity in wheat fields of a desert agroecosystem

Pluess T., Opatovsky I., Gavish-Regev E., Lubin Y. and Schmidt M.H.

Are spider assemblages in fragmented, semi-desert habitat affected by increasing cover of agricultural crops?

Opatovsky I., Pluess T., Gavish-Regev E., Schmidt M.H. and Lubin Y.

Species richness and densities of spiders in wheat fields and semi-desert in the Negev (Israel)

Pluess T., Opatovsky I., Gavish-Regev E., Lubin Y. and Schmidt M.H.