Combined Effects of Mating Disruption, Insecticides, and the Sterile Insect Technique on Cydia pomonella in New Zealand

R. M. Horner, P. L. Lo, D. J. Rogers, J. T. S. Walker and D. M. Suckling,  Insects,  11:23. 2020.

Codling moth is a major pest of apples, and was accidentally introduced into New Zealand over 150 years ago. Many countries that New Zealand exports apples to do not have codling moth present and they want to keep it out. Therefore, apple growers must heavily control codling moth populations on their orchards. Currently, the main control tactics are insecticide applications and mating disruption, which uses the moth’s own sex pheromone to make the males unable to find females to mate. We aimed to supplement these tactics with the sterile insect technique (SIT) to further suppress the codling moth on orchards. SIT involves mass rearing and sterilizing codling moth and then releasing them onto orchards where they mate with wild insects resulting in no offspring. We released sterile insects onto seven orchards using unmanned aerial vehicles and ground releases. Six years of the program saw significant drops (90-99%) in wild moth populations. The SIT is an excellent tactic for reducing moth populations in export apple orchards. Codling moth was introduced into New Zealand, and remains a critical pest for the apple industry. Apples exported to some markets require strict phytosanitary measures to eliminate the risk of larval infestation. Mating disruption and insecticide applications are the principal means of suppression in New Zealand. We tested the potential for the sterile insect technique (SIT) to supplement these measures to achieve local eradication or suppression of this pest. SIT was trialed in an isolated group of six integrated fruit production (IFP) orchards and one organic orchard (total 391 ha), using sterilized insects imported from Canada, with release by unmanned aerial vehicle and from the ground. Eradication was not achieved across the region, but a very high level of codling moth suppression was achieved at individual orchards after the introduction of sterile moths in combination with mating disruption and larvicides. After six years of releases, catches of wild codling moths at three IFP orchards (224 ha) were 90-99% lower than in 2013-2014, the year before releases began. Catches at three other IFP orchards (129 ha) decreased by 67-97% from the year before releases began (2015-2016), from lower initial levels. At a certified organic orchard with a higher initial population under only organic larvicides and mating disruption, by 2019-2020, there was an 81% reduction in wild moths capture from 2016-2017, the year before releases began.

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