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Sterile Moths Released Yesterday

Wednesday 19 March 2003

Sterile Moths Released Today

Around 500 sterile male moths were released at each of two Auckland sites this morning, as a further assault on the dwindling painted apple moth population.

The Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) has been used against a range of insect pests in more than 40 countries over several decades. When the sterile male moths mate with females, the females produce sterile eggs or offspring.

The released moths were reared by HortResearch in Auckland and made sterile through exposure to Cobalt-60 under controlled conditions at the National Radiation Laboratory in Chirstchurch – a process similar to that used to sterilize a range of imported food products.

The 500 moths are coloured with fluorescent dyes to allow scientists to track and monitor the sterile population. Additional sterile male moths will be released on a weekly basis. As the programme progresses up to 2,500 sterile moths will be released per site, each week, in an effort to disrupt and overwhelm the breeding painted apple moth population.

Recent data from monitoring traps indicates a considerable decline in painted apple moth populations from this time last year. For the December-January period last year, over 1300 male moths were trapped. During the same period this year, only 30 male moths were detected using a more intensive trapping grid.

“While these results are extremely promising, we have not yet eradicated the painted apple moth. We can’t forget that a single female moth can bolster the population by laying up to 700 eggs at one time. It is vital that every last moth is eradicated. We are continuously evaluating scientific techniques that may assist in collapsing the residual populations. The release of sterile moths alongside other proven techniques will lead us a step closer to total eradication” said Ian Gear, painted apple moth project director.


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