Quality Control Method to Measure Predator Evasion in Wild and Mass-reared Mediterranean Fruit Flies (Diptera: Tephritidae)

Martha A. Hendrichs, Viwat Wornoayporn, Byron Katsoyannos, Jorge Hendrichs


Sterile male insects, mass-reared and released as part of sterile insect technique (SIT) programs, must survive long enough in the field to mature sexually and compete effectively with wild males for wild females. An often reported problem in Mediterranean fruit fly (medfly) Ceratitis capitata (Wiedemann) SIT programs is that numbers of released sterile males decrease rapidly in the field for various reasons, including losses to different types of predators. This is a serious issue in view that most operational programs release sterile flies at an age when they are still immature. Previous field and field-cage tests have confirmed that flies of laboratory strains are less able to evade predators than wild flies. Such tests involve, however, considerable manipulation and observation of predators and are therefore not suitable for routine measurements of predator evasion. Here we describe a simple quality control method with aspirators to measure agility in medflies and show that this parameter is related to the capacity of flies to evade predators. Although further standardization of the test is necessary to allow more accurate inter-strain comparisons, results confirm the relevance of measuring predator evasion in mass-reared medfly strains. Besides being a measure of this sterile male quality parameter, the described method could be used for the systematic selection of strains with a higher capacity for predator evasion.

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