ARS Scientists Help Fight Damaging Moth in Africa
December 10, 2009
Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
scientists have launched a preemptive strike to combat the false codling moth,
a major pest in its native Africa.
If the moth enters the United States, it will damage citrus, corn, cotton
and a wide range of nuts and fruits, according to entomologist
Carpenter, at the ARS
Protection and Management Research Unit in Tifton, Ga. He is working to
control the moth in Africa, thereby reducing the risk of its arrival in the
United Statesand ensuring a future weapon if it does show up.
Carpenter and an international team of scientists have turned to a
tried-and-true method of pest control: the sterile insect technique (SIT).
Using this technique, both male and female insects are irradiated. The female
insects are left sterile by the irradiation and are unable to produce
offspring. The males are completely or partially sterilized; if they are able
to produce offspring, the offspring are sterile. By repeating the process, the
target insect population eventually declines.
Originally developed by ARS scientists to control screwworms, SIT is now
used to control Mediterranean fruit flies, pink bollworms and a number of other
moths and pests.
Carpenter began working with South African scientists several years ago to
develop SIT to control false codling moths and to test the methods in South
Africas citrus groves. In a series of studies, Carpenter and his
colleagues found that irradiating adult false codling moths sterilized the
females and ensured that males produced only sterile offspring. The research
has been largely funded by the Food and
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the
International Atomic Energy Agency, which is
dedicated to finding peaceful uses for nuclear energy.
Carpenter also helped South African scientists establish a facility in a
rural village where codling moths are reared, chilled, irradiated and
transported for release in the orchards. In a year of operations, sterilized
moths released aerially and by hand drastically reduced moth populations in
South Africas Western Cape region. The sterile moths also are available
for shipment to the United States if they are needed here. A report on this
work was recently published in Area-Wide
Control of Insect Pests.
ARS is the principal scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This
research supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.