A bacterium against the tiger: further evidence of the potential of non-inundative releases of males with manipulated Wolbachia infection in reducing fertility of Aedes albopictus field populations in Italy

B. Caputo, R. Moretti, C. Virgillito, M. Manica, E. Lampazzi, G. Lombardi, P. Serini, V. Pichler, N. W. Beebe, A. Della Torre and M. Calvitti,  Pest Management Science,  2023.

BACKGROUND: Incompatible Insect Technique (IIT) is a population suppression approach based on the release of males with manipulated Wolbachia infection inducing egg inviability in wild females. We here present results of multiple field releases of incompatible ARwP males carried out in 2019 in a 2.7-ha green area within urban Rome (Italy) to assess the effect on Ae. albopictus egg viability. Data are compared with results obtained in 2018, when the approach was tested for the first time in Europe. RESULTS: An average of 4,674 ARwP males were released weekly for 7 weeks, resulting in a mean ARwP/wild male ratio of 1.1:1 (versus 0.7:1 in 2018). Egg-viability dynamics in ovitraps significantly varied between Treated and Control Sites, with an estimated overall reduction of 35% (versus 15% in 2018). The estimated proportion of females classified as mated with ARwP males was 41.8% and the viability rate of eggs laid by these females (9.5%) was on average significantly lower than that of females only mated with wild males (87.8%); however, high variability in fertility was observed. Values of ARwP male competitiveness were 0.36 and 0.73 based on the overall viability rate of eggs in ovitraps and on female fertility, respectively, i.e. well above the conventional 0.2 threshold for an effective suppressive impact in the field. CONCLUSIONS: Results further support the potential of IIT as a tool to contribute to Ae. albopictus control in the urban context, stressing the need of larger field trials to evaluate the cost-efficacy of the approach in temperate regions.

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