Medfly control methods were ready for pest’s influx

Excerpt from the May 8, 1965 issue of Science News Letter

Mediterranean fruit fly

SHOO FLY  Mediterranean fruit flies are destructive insect pests. Multiple methods, including releasing sterilized males, have been used to control them and protect fruit crops.

US. Department of Agriculture/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

U.S. ready for fruit fly — A reception committee is always ready to greet the dreaded Mediterranean fruit fly if it should stray across the U.S. border from Central America. The fly, probably the world’s most destructive fruit pest, does not now infest the United States.… A program of sterilization [of another species of fruit fly] is now underway.… Billions of insects are reared, sterilized and released. Sterile males then compete with wild ones in the breeding grounds, and since their matings produce no offspring, the species dies out. — Science News Letter,  May 8, 1965.


Sterilization was used for decades to combat the screwworm before Mexico and Guatemala staged their first Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata) sterilization trial, in 1978. Along with pesticides, the sterile insect technique is now used in the United States and elsewhere around the world to eradicate or control the medfly and other insect pests. Scientists are developing new ways to sterilize insects. Variations of the technique are being used to control disease-carrying mosquitoes.

Tina Hesman Saey is the senior staff writer and reports on molecular biology. She has a Ph.D. in molecular genetics from Washington University in St. Louis and a master’s degree in science journalism from Boston University.

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