Skip to main content
ARS Home » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #147181


item McInnis, Donald

Submitted to: The Sterile Insect Technique
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/15/2004
Publication Date: 12/20/2005
Citation: Lance, D.R., Mcinnis, D.O. 2005. The Biological basis of the Sterile Insect Technique. V.A. Dyke, J. Henrichs, and A.S. Robinson (eds), Sterile Insect Technique: Preinciples and Practice in Area-Wide integrated Pest Management. Springer, Heidelberg, Germany. P69-94.

Interpretive Summary: The use of the sterile insect technique (SIT) is a very attractive method of controlling insect pests worldwide because if its environmentally friendly methodology. However, a number of political, economic, and biological factors interact to determine the actual feasibility of the technology on an insect-by-insect basis. This chapter examines the biological factors that may affect the suitability of the SIT. These include aspects of insect abundance, mass-rearing costs, distribution, and population dynamics of the particular pest. The costs associated with production and distribution of sufficient sterile insects to control the particular native population may be too large to make the technique feasible. Biological factors affecting the competitiveness of released sterile insects are discussed. These include the nature of the pest mating system, the effects on the genetics and appearance of the mass-production process, the effect of handling, the effect of the sterilization process and other biological factors. While economic and political considerations typically determine when and where the technique is deployed, it is the biological factors that ultimately determine the feasibility and probability of success of a particular SIT program.

Technical Abstract: Use of the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) is at least hypothetically applicable to controlling populations of a wide variety of insect pests. In practice, biological, economic, and political factors interact to determine the feasibility and desirability of using the technique and have restricted the use of the SIT to a relatively narrow set of pest situations. This chapter presents relevant biological factors and their effects on the application of the SIT. The abundance, distribution, and population dynamics of the pest are discussed in relation to producing and delivering sufficient sterile insects to control a target population. Pest movement is considered as a factor that influences the feasibility and design of SIT projects, including the need for a population-wide management approach. Biological factors affecting the competitiveness of sterile insects (that is, their relative ability to induce sterility into the target population) are also presented. These include the nature of the pest's mating system, phenotypic and genotypic effects of mass production, handling, and sterilization procedures, and other biological considerations. These factors influence the sterile insect¿s ability to survive, disperse, mate successfully (especially with wild insects), and block acquisition and/or use of viable sperm by wild females. Examples from specific pest situations and SIT development efforts are provided throughout. The authors argue that, while economic and political considerations typically drive decisions on when and where the technique is developed and deployed, biological and ecological factors ultimately determine the logistics, feasibility, and economics of suppressing a given pest population with the SIT. Adequate knowledge of the biology of the pest species and potential target populations is needed both for making sound decisions on whether the use of SIT is appropriate and for the efficient and effective application of the technique.