Researchers demonstrate improved appeal of sterile flies
Irradiated, sterile flies dropped over seaports and agricultural areas to mate with unsuspecting females save food crops and millions of dollars in prevented infestations and the ensuing eradication efforts.
But blasting these secret-suitor insects with radiation via electron beams, X-rays or gamma-rays, tends to make them weaker than typical males — and not so appealing to females as possible mates.
What sterile-insect operations need, says University of Florida insect physiologist Daniel Hahn, is the insect world’s version of George Clooney: 52 years old, gray-haired and still dazzling the ladies.
Hahn, an associate professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, and his former postdoctoral associate, Giancarlo López-Martínez, now an assistant professor at New Mexico State University, describe in research publications this month and last, that sterilizing insects in a low-oxygen environment helps create suitors who more closely resemble the suave Clooney than do those sterilized in a normal-oxygen environment.
“Our males (insects) are not only more sexually competitive, they are maintaining their sexual competitiveness and their virility, into old age,” Hahn said, “and that has the potential to make them much better biological control agents.”
The sterile insect technique, or SIT, has been used for decades and is considered a much preferable alternative to spraying pesticides over urban or suburban areas near major ports. In this biological control method, large numbers of sterile, male insects are released to compete with wild males for the attention of invasive wild females.
A female duped into accepting a sterile male would then find herself without offspring, thus trimming the population and its threat to the state’s important agricultural crops. The technique has been used effectively against the Mediterranean fruit fly, called the Medfly, and the cattle-infesting screw-worm fly, among others.
Florida spends roughly $6 million a year using SIT to prevent Mediterranean fruit fly infestations, while California spends about $17 million a year. Because of the inherent dangers in importing even one Mediterranean fruit fly into the state, in their recent studies, López-Martínez and Hahn investigated the physiological effects of applying low-oxygen treatments prior to and during irradiation sterilization on two other plant pests: the Caribbean fruit fly and the invasive cactus moth.
- International Year of Soils set for 2015
- Extra care needed for wintertime fuel handling
- CLA issues statement on EPA’s neonicotinoid report
- Cattle futures bucked the bearish ag market trend Thursday
- Valent launches new low VOC plant growth regulator
- Thursday's export data had mixed crop market implications
- ValueAct buys stake in fertilizer dealer Agrium
- DuPont Crop Protection to sell certain assets to Bayer
- Critics of Dow herbicide sue U.S. EPA over approval
- Six tips to help professionals take leaps of faith
- Nitrogen fertilization rates for corn production
- Landmark Services Co-op, Curry Seeds sign agreement