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Friday 7 February 2003
The breeding cycle of the painted apple moth is about to be disrupted by the
release of sterile male painted apple moths in Auckland from next week,
providing another tool in the operation to eradicate the pest.
Ian Gear, painted apple moth project director, said the ability to add this
tool, known as the sterile insect technique (SIT), to complement the range of
proven eradication tools already being used - including both aerial and ground
operations - will definitely increase the effectiveness of the overall painted
apple moth operation and the likelihood of its success.
"As with any project that is aiming for total eradication we have to be
wary of being over-confident. However comparative data for December-January on
the density of moth finds detected by traps in the painted apple moth zones
shows an undeniable decline - from about 1300 male moths trapped in 2001-02 down
to 30 male moths in the same period for 2002-03.
"At a point like this, we have to look to sound science to see how we
meet the difficult challenge of moving even closer towards eradication. Using
this technique helps us to ensure that the small percentage of female moths in
the painted apple moth zone, often in inaccessible areas, will be reached by
sterile males, resulting in the sterility factor being transferred to subsequent
generations. This, coupled with other tools, will assist in collapsing the
residual populations," Ian Gear said.
John Charles, a lead scientist with HortResearch's bioprotection team, said
the planned release of sterile moths follows lengthy research into the
application of SIT as a valuable complementary tool in the painted apple moth
Although it is new to New Zealand, SIT has been used in more than 40
countries for several decades against a range of insect pests, including fruit
flies. When the sterile moths mate with female moths, the females produce
sterile eggs or offspring.
Because female painted apple moths are flightless, the research focused
solely on males and on a technique that would have a minimum effect on their
mobility. Data from HortResearch has confirmed that full sterility and
population collapse will quickly result from the release of sterile males.
The male moths are reared by HortResearch in Auckland and are rendered
sterile by exposure to Cobalt-60 under controlled conditions at the National
Radiation Laboratory in Christchurch. Although they have been irradiated the
moths are not "radioactive". - This is a similar procedure to the one
used to sterilise a range of imported food products.
For further information contact: Ian Gear, Painted Apple Moth Project
Director Tel: (04) 474 4275 or (025) 223 1748 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or Brett Sangster Director, MAF Corporate Communications Tel: (04) 498 9882 or (027) 247 8777