Breakfast of Champions or Kiss of Death? Survival and Sexual Performance of Protein-fed, Sterile Mediterranean Fruit Flies (Diptera: Tephritidae)

Boaz Yuval, Meyrav Maor, Karmit Levy, Roy Kaspi, Phillip Taylor, Todd Shelly

Abstract


The sterile insect technique (SIT) is increasingly being used around the world to control Ceratitis capitata (Wiedemann) (Diptera: Tephritidae), the Mediterranean fruit fly as part of an area-wide integrated approach. One option that may improve the effectiveness of the SIT, by increasing the sexual competitiveness of released sterile males, consists of feeding males protein during the post-teneral stage, a diet that increases sexual performance of wild males. We examine the effects of diet on the successive hurdles males must overcome in order to inseminate females, i.e., joining leks, copulating females, having their sperm stored and inhibition of female remating. In addition, we address the effects of diet on post-release foraging success, longevity, and the ability to withstand starvation. While protein feeding universally increases the sexual success of wild males, its effect on sterile males varies with strain, experimental settings, and environmental conditions. In some cases, treatments that resulted in the best sexual performance were significantly associated with increased vulnerability to starvation. However, no particular diet affected the ability of sterile males to find nutrients in the field when these where available. We suggest it may be better to release relatively short-lived flies that are highly competitive, rather than long-lived, sexually ineffective ones.

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