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

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.

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.

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.

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.