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Medfly that ingested photoactive red dye

Company Gets a License to Dye Fruit Flies

By Jim De Quattro
February 19, 1998

USDA's Agricultural Research Service has issued a license for technology using a bait to trick fruit fly pests into consuming a red dye that quickly kills them once they are exposed to light. The dye destroys the insects' cells.

ARS issued an exclusive license for the bait-dye technology to PhotoDye International, Inc., Baltimore, Md. ARS scientists refined and tested the bait-dye product, SureDye, under cooperative R&D agreements with PhotoDye since 1995.

Among other uses, SureDye shows promise as an alternative to malathion sometimes used to suppress fruit-fly invasions such as one by Mediterranean fruit flies in Florida last year. SureDye has been shown effective in aerial- and ground-applied sprays. Other methods including bait stations and spot sprays are being developed.

The Food and Drug Administration years ago approved the red dye, D&C Red No. 28, for drug and cosmetic uses such as antacids and lipsticks.

The bait doesn't attract honeybees, ladybugs and other beneficial bugs. But its precise combinations of sugars, proteins and other ingredients attract fruit flies and stimulate them to feed. They quickly ingest a minuscule but toxic dose of dye. Sunlight speeds its action.

SureDye killed up to 100 percent of fruit fly pests in lab and field tests led by ARS entomologist Robert Mangan in Weslaco, Texas, and colleagues in Hilo, Hawaii. ARS, PhotoDye and other cooperators have tested SureDye outdoors in California, Florida, Hawaii and Texas as well as Brazil, Guatemala, Mexico, Morocco, South Africa and Surinam. Outdoor trials have been in citrus, mango, carambola and other tropical and subtropical crops. Targets have included Mediterranean, Mexican, Caribbean, carambola, oriental and other crop-damaging fruit flies. More tests are being planned.

PhotoDye has applied to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to register SureDye as a commercial fruit-fly insecticide. Meanwhile, ARS scientists are exploring using light-activated dye against other pests including temperate-zone fruit flies, household ants, Colorado potato beetles and corn rootworms.

Scientific contacts: Robert Mangan, ARS Subtropical Agricultural Research Center, Weslaco, Texas, phone (956) 565-2647, fax (956) 565-6652,; Steven Peck or Paul Moore, ARS Tropical Fruit, Vegetable and Ornamental Crop Research Laboratory, Hilo, Hawaii, phone (808) 959-4300, fax (808) 959-4323, (Peck) or (Moore).

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