The collaboration between UNIFI, CREA and ENEA led to a new paper, just published online in Journal of Pest Science. We investigated the effecxt of gamma-ray sterilization on the sexual behaviour of red palm weevils males. The Red palm weevil, Rhynchophorus ferrugineus (RPW), is widely considered the most damaging insect pest of palms. The "sterile insect technique" (SIT) is a promising approach for its control. A crucial prerequisite of this technique is that irradiated males that are released in nature are as sexually competitive as their wild counterparts. Thus, we decided to evaluate the potential use of the SIT in red palm weevil males by (1) investigating the sexual competitiveness of gamma-irradiated males in a natural-like social context and then (2) testing their efficacy in impairing female reproduction. Our results showed that irradiation did not affect any of the mating behaviour parameters. However, the male reproductive potential was drastically reduced, as fertility was markedly decreased in females mated with irradiated males. This suggest that SIT has the potential to produce sterile but sexually competitive males, thus impairing RPW population survival.
Check the paper at http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10340-015-0709-4