Genetic elimination of field-cage populations of Mediterranean fruit flies
The Mediterranean fruit fly (medfly, Ceratitis capitata Wiedemann) is a pest of over 300 fruits, vegetables and nuts. The sterile insect technique (SIT) is a control measure used to reduce the reproductive potential of populations through the mass release of sterilized male insects that mate with wild females. However, SIT flies can display poor field performance, due to the effects of mass-rearing and of the irradiation process used for sterilization. The development of female-lethal RIDL (release of insects carrying a dominant lethal) strains for medfly can overcome many of the problems of SIT associated with irradiation. Here, we present life-history characterizations for two medfly RIDL strains, OX3864A and OX3647Q. Our results show (i) full functionality of RIDL, (ii) equivalency of RIDL and wild-type strains for life-history characteristics, and (iii) a high level of sexual competitiveness against both wild-type and wild-derived males. We also present the first proof-of-principle experiment on the use of RIDL to eliminate medfly populations. Weekly releases of OX3864A males into stable populations of wild-type medfly caused a successive decline in numbers, leading to eradication. The results show that genetic control can provide an effective alternative to SIT for the control of pest insects.