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The sterile insect technique and the Mediterranean fruit fly: assessing the utility of aromatherapy in large field enclosures


*Correspondence: USDA-APHIS, 41–650 Ahiki Street, Waimanalo, HI 96795 USA. E-mail:


The sterile insect technique (SIT) is widely used in integrated programs against tephritid fruit flies, particularly the Mediterranean fruit fly, Ceratitis capitata Wiedemann (Diptera: Tephritidae). Unfortunately, the mass-rearing procedures inherent to the SIT often lead to a reduction in the male mating competitiveness. One potential solution involves the prerelease exposure of males to particular attractants. In particular, male exposure to ginger root oil [Zingiber officinale Roscoe (Zingiberaceae); hereafter GRO], has been shown to increase mating success dramatically in field cage trials. To evaluate more rigorously the effectiveness of GRO exposure, we here describe two projects that compared levels of egg sterility or pupal yield, respectively, following the release of wild flies and either GRO-exposed (treated) sterile males or GRO-deprived (control) sterile males in large field enclosures. In both projects, sterile males from a genetic sexing strain were exposed as adults to GRO for 24 h while held in large storage boxes. In Hawaii, we dissected eggs from fruits to determine the percentage of egg hatch at four overflooding ratios, ranging from 5 : 1 to 60 : 1 (sterile : wild males), and found that, at all four ratios, the proportion of unhatched (sterile) eggs was significantly greater in enclosures containing GRO-exposed males than control males. In Guatemala, we allowed larvae to develop in fruits and counted the number of pupae produced. At the only overflooding ratio tested (25 : 1), pupal yield was approximately 25% lower for enclosures containing GRO-exposed males than control males, although this difference was not statistically significant. An explanation for the differing outcomes is proposed, and the implications of these findings for the SIT are discussed.