Improve the mass-rearing of Lepidoptera pests for SIT programmes

Closed for proposals

Project Type

Coordinated Research Project

Project Code




Approved Date

8 December 2021


Active - Ongoing

Start Date

2 June 2022

Expected End Date

1 September 2027

Participating Countries

Iran (Islamic Republic of)
South Africa
Syrian Arab Republic
United States of America
Viet Nam


Lepidoptera are key pests that require control measures to avoid significant losses in many cropping systems worldwide. Failure to control key species can result in significant losses that impact the economics of production. Chemical, semiochemical, and biological measures have been successfully utilized in the control of key lepidopteran pests. However, there have been documented reports of resistance development, deleterious impacts on non-target organisms and high cost. With a worldwide focus on sustainability, there is increasing concern around chemical residues on food and the environmental impact of some of these control measures.
The sterile insect technique (SIT), which involves mass-rearing and releasing sterile insects to overflood a wild pest population, has been used successfully against several moth species. However, despite successes, the wider development and deployment of SIT has important issues that need further investigation. Previous coordinated research projects (CRP) have addressed a number of constraints. Despite excellent progress by a previous CRP, there remains a need for progress in several practical areas that limit the expansion of SIT for Lepidoptera. Having an efficient, cost-effective rearing methodology is the backbone of any successful SIT programme. The processes of mass-rearing that require a research focus include: the development and refinement of working larval diet(s), the development of protocols for pathogen monitoring and management, identification of methods for marking mass-reared sterile Lepidoptera, the development and optimization of egg collection, processing, sanitation, incubation and diet seeding methods and technologies, diet enhancement through additives such as sterols and cryoprotectants and increased automation to improve productivity and reduce costs. 
A CRP is proposed to enable collaborators in Member States to benefit from the expansion of the SIT concept to lepidopteran species of economic importance. This objective will be met by focusing on three areas of mass-rearing for SIT, firstly establishing basic rearing technologies for Lepidoptera of economic concern, secondly focusing on scaling, and adapting basic rearing technologies to mass-rearing systems for the application of the SIT against lepidopteran pests, and lastly optimizing existing mass-rearing systems for sterile Lepidoptera to increase efficacy and reduce the cost of existing area-wide SIT programmes. 


Expand and improve the sterile insect technique for use against lepidopteran pests of crops to improve food security and enhance health and well-being.

Specific objectives

Develop basic rearing technology and systems for lepidopteran pests of concern.

Scale and adapt basic rearing technologies to mass-rearing systems for the application of SIT against lepidopteran pests.

Optimize existing mass-rearing systems for sterile Lepidoptera to increase efficacy and reduce cost of existing SIT programmes.

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