Assessing the sterility and quality of gamma-irradiated pepper weevils, Anthonomus eugenii (Coleoptera: Curculionidae), toward the development of the sterile insect technique

Basso, J.V., Labbe, R. and Scott-Dupree, C.,  Pest Management Science,  2023.
The pepper weevil (PW), Anthonomus eugenii, is an economically significant pest of cultivated Capsicum spp. pepper crops in North America where it remains a challenge to manage because of its cryptic immature life stages. The sterile insect technique (SIT) is a genetic pest management tactic that relies on the release of insects that have been sterilized with ionizing radiation to lower the population reproductive rate. Toward developing an effective PW-SIT program, this study has, for the first time, investigated the effects of gamma irradiation on the sterility and survival of this species.

Among the array of doses tested, we found that pupal PW males and females irradiated at 110 Gy produced no adult offspring. Furthermore, females mated with a male irradiated at 110 Gy had high egg sterility (97.3%), and irradiated females nearly completely failed to lay eggs (97.5%). Individuals irradiated at this dose had a shortened lifespan (lethal time to 50% mortality values of 12 and 11 days for males and females, respectively) and quantitatively reduced spontaneous flight activity. The eclosion rate of PW pupae was not significantly reduced by any radiation treatment. This study suggests that PWs irradiated at a gamma radiation dose of 110 Gy as pupae could feasibly be used in a PW-SIT program, because both males and females were 100% sterile at this dose. These findings will inform the development of a SIT program that could considerably improve the sustainability and effectiveness of PW management in greenhouse and field pepper crops worldwide.

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