Performance of sterilized Eldana saccharina Walker (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) adults in mating and cage trials : further steps towards its control using the Sterile Insect Technique

Mudavanhu, Pride (2012-12)

Thesis (PhD(Agric))--Stellenbosch University, 2012.

Thesis

The sugarcane borer, Eldana saccharina Walker (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) is the most limiting factor in the South African sugar industry with losses to this insect pest estimated to be at least ZAR60 million per annum. Because of its cryptic nature as well as the fact that E. saccharina is both indigenous to Africa and occurs on several host plants, attempts to control or eradicate it using several available methods have not been very successful. However, the sterile insect technique (SIT) is one of the newer control methods that can be incorporated into an area-wide integrated pest management (AW-IPM) programme to achieve better control or eradication. The implementation of the SIT program needs to go through a series of well-researched phases in order to be successful. In the first of this multi-phase project, it was determined that E. saccharina is susceptible to ionizing radiation, and is thus a suitable candidate for the SIT development against it and that a sub-sterilizing dose of 200 Gy is sufficient to induce F1(inherited) sterility in male and complete sterility in female moths respectively. The results presented here are discussed in the context of further development of the SIT as an addition to the arsenal of tactics in an AW-IPM programme against E. saccharina. Based on these initial findings, the study examined the lek and mating behavior of male moths subjected to three radiation doses (150, 200, 250 Gy) against normal non-irradiated/fertile moths. Both mass-rearing and irradiation of E. saccharina led to a quantitative departure of male mating behavior away from that exhibited by their wild counterparts. However, treated males are still able to form leks and mate with wild females. Male E. saccharina irradiated at all three doses tested were found to be as active and competitive as wild males, but in some of the traits measured, performance diminished significantly with an increase in the radiation dosage. In general, the performance of moths treated at 200 Gy did not differ significantly from that of moths treated at 150 Gy and therefore the former dose is ideal for SIT development since it results in a lower residual F1 fertility than the latter. The level of mating competitiveness and compatibility was assessed under both laboratory and semi-field conditions in pairwise comparisons consisting of laboratory reared vs. wild (L-W), 200 Gy irradiated vs. wild (S-W) and laboratory reared vs. irradiated moths (L-S). Based on the results from the more robust field cage assays, the mating indices generated indicated that the mass-reared E. saccharina strain produced in South Africa has not yet evolved sexual behaviours suggestive of incipient pre-mating isolation barriers with local wild strains. Wild moths did not discriminate against either the partially sterile or laboratory reared moths and most importantly, the irradiated males mated significantly more than their wild counterparts regardless of the type of female. The irradiated insects could therefore achieve the purpose for which they are intended upon release into the field. Third, the critical thermal limits (CTLs) to activity at high and low temperatures (i.e. critical thermal maxima “CTmax” and minima “CTmin”) of different E. saccharina strains/treatments were investigated under standard experimental conditions. The effect of laboratory rearing and increasing radiation dosage on thermal tolerance of the adult stage of E. saccharina was explored. There were highly significant differences between the laboratory-reared and wild strain and also between non-irradiated and irradiated strains in both CTmax and CTmin. Laboratory reared E. saccharina moths were more heat tolerant compared to wild moths for both genders while in the case of CTmin, the reverse was true. Irradiation had a negative effect on both CTmax and CTmin. Moths treated at the lowest radiation dose were more cold and heat tolerant than those treated at higher dosages thereby reinforcing the importance of lower dosages rather than those that induce full sterility against E. saccharina. In general, gender effects on the CTLs were non-significant. Pilot sterile male releases in shade house trials to measure the impact of sustained releases of partially sterile adult males at an over-flooding moth ratio of 10T: 1U (treated to untreated),were conducted to measure their efficacy to stop E. saccharina incursions and suppress populations prior to testing in pilot studies under true season-long and area wide conditions. Results from the current study demonstrated that releasing partially irradiated (200 Gy) adult male moths at the afore mentioned release rate significantly reduced sugarcane stalk damage as well as lowered the number of fertile progeny from F1to succeeding generations in a stable E. saccharina population initiated in a cage house. There were more damaged internodes per stalk in the control than in the sugarcane receiving regular releases of partially sterile male moths. Overall, there were significantly more undamaged stalks in the treated sugarcane than the untreated control. Furthermore, there were significantly more larvae per stalk retrieved from the control compared to the treated sugarcane suggesting that the sustained release of steriles was efficacious in reducing emergence of fertile larvae in the succeeding generations. The results of this study indicate that there is considerable scope for the SIT against E. saccharina.

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