Increasing the Efficiency of Lepidoptera SIT by Enhanced Quality Control

Closed for proposals

Project Type

Coordinated Research Project

Project Code




Approved Date

6 February 2008



Start Date

15 September 2008

Expected End Date

14 September 2014

Completed Date

30 July 2015


Pest species of Lepidoptera such as codling moth, diamondback moth, oriental fruit moth, grapevine moth, cotton bollworms, and pink bollworm are among the most damaging species of food and fibre crops in the world. These pests are the target of huge quantities of broad-spectrum insecticides in developed and developing countries. The economic, social and environmental consequences of these insecticide interventions are immense, and hence, are unsustainable. In addition, global increases in trade and travel have resulted in an increase in the rate of invasion of lepidopteran pest species, which threaten agricultural systems, markets, communities, and biodiversity on a worldwide basis. There is broad international consensus that intervention campaigns against such pests should be based on the area-wide concept of integrated pest management (AW-IPM), i.e, the management of entire pest populations within a delimited geographical area. The sterile insect technique (SIT) is a very efficient control tactic for creating pest-free areas or areas of low pest prevalence within such AW-IPM programmes. A previous CRP on Lepidoptera SIT (2002-2007) focused on improvements of codling moth SIT to facilitate its' expansion in the field. Further development of the SIT to target other key lepidopteran pests will require improvements that increase the quality control of mass-rearing, irradiation, shipping, release and field assessment activities. This proposed new CRP will contribute to the development and use of improved quality control/management systems for all aspects of the SIT by (1) identifying and characterizing factors and variables that affect quality and field performance of released moths, (2) developing and improving tools and methods to assess, predict and enhance the field performance of released moths based on insect quality, (3) developing new and improved methods for enhancing rearing systems, facilitating the selection for performance or fitness traits that improve colony establishment, refurbishment and production, as well as the field performance of released moths.


The overall objective of the CRP was to provide the basis for improved efficacy of lepidopteran (moth pest) SIT through the development of systems that enable assessment and prediction of the field performance of sterile insects.

Specific objectives

1. To identify and characterize factors and variables that affects quality and field performance of released moths.

2. To develop and improve tools and methods to assess, predict and enhance the field performance of released moths based on insect quality.

3. To develop new and improved methods for enhancing rearing systems, to facilitate the selection for performance or fitness traits that improve colony establishment, refurbishment and production, as well as the field performance of released moths.


The impact of the CRP has been significant and important knowledge has been gained on the development of tools and methods to assess quality of reared insects. In addition, several biological attributes and operational factors were identified that affect the quality and field performance of the moths. Various new techniques, new tools and standardized procedures were developed that can now be applied in operational SIT programs and made available to the scientific community and the Member States. The CRP was instrumental in the development of new partnerships and in the development and implementation of new spin off research projects as a result of the research obtained. The impact on the scientific community is evidenced by the high number of publications in peer reviewed journals. The careful selection of the RCM locations (New Zealand, South Africa, USA and Canada) and the hosting of the RCM’s by operational programmes maximized the benefits for both the participants and the hosts. Much of the information that became available in the course of the CRP was made accessible immediately through the numerous publications, of which many were in on line journals. The CRP largely contributed to a better understanding of the SIT and contributed to expand this understanding and support for SIT in the world. The CRP also fuelled the development of a next generation of researchers on topics related to area-wide pest management and the SIT as is evidenced by the various MSc and PhD students that collaborated on topics related to the objectives of the CRP. It was also suggested to have a specific symposium on the SIT at the next Entomological Congress of the Entomological Society of South Africa, where the participants could present the data of the CRP. The final results of the CRP will be published in a special issue of the Florida Entomologist in 2015.


The results of the CRP were extremely relevant for the advancement of the SIT of Lepidoptera in the context of area-wide integrated pest management.
The CRP helped to facilitate accessibility to the SIT which is becoming more relevant as the need for environmentally friendly pest control tactics is becoming more pressing due to climate change and globalisation. The eminent threat of more and more invasive pests combined with the fact that the SIT is the perfect tool to eradicate low population density incursion before they get established indicates the importance of the CRP in contributing to the development of tools that facilitates the rapid response to invasive pests. In addition, more and more lepidopteran pests are becoming resistant to pesticides, so in that respect the CRP assisted with the development of tools to manage problems of pesticide resistance. The RCM’s were instrumental in helping to create awareness on area wide approaches and the SIT in the host countries and regions, in convincing other stakeholders to support SIT area wide programs and it helped in making SIT more mainstream as an available tool. The CRP also created awareness in operational SIT programmes that operational research remains a critical component to support the operations.

CRP Publications


See attached list

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