Sterile Insect Technique (SIT): a cost-effective, sustainable method


Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) was initiated by E.F. Knipling and R.C. Bushland (winners of world food prize 1992 for the development of SIT) in the 1930s, when they worked with the screwworm fly, a devastating pest of cattle in North America. The first successful use of SIT to control screwworm was on the island of Curaçao in 1953. Since then SIT has been further developed to suppress more than 20 insect pests, many of them fruit flies and other key agricultural pests.

Approach to Sterilizing Fruit Flies

The sterile insect technique, or SIT, has been used for decades to control insects such as the Mediterranean fruit fly. Basically, insects are exposed to radiation, which makes them sterile, and then they’re released into the wild to mate. However, since they’re sterile, no viable offspring are produced.

Low-oxygen Environment verses Sterile Insect Longevity

The sterile insect technique, or SIT, has been used for decades. Insects are irradiated so they become sterile, and then they’re released into the wild where they find mates. However, since they are sterile, there are no offspring, thus trimming the population and the threat to agricultural crops. The technique has been used effectively against the Mediterranean fruit fly, called the Medfly, and the cattle-infesting screw-worm fly, among others.

Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) is a cost-effective, sustainable method

SIT involves releasing millions of sterile insects over a wide area to mate with the native insects present. Mating of released sterile males with native females leads to a decrease in the females’ reproductive potential because their offspring do not survive. Ultimately, if males are released in sufficient numbers over a sufficient period, this leads to the local elimination or suppression of the pest population. SIT is species-specific and has no effect on other ‘non-target’ species. This ‘birth control’ strategy is therefore environmentally clean and sustainable. SIT approaches are good at reducing low populations to very low levels in contrast to insecticides which are good at reducing high populations to low ones.

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