A new combination of fruit fly controls being tested by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) for use against oriental and melon fruit flies is proving to be more effective, longer lasting and less hazardous to the environment than current technologies.
Such a product could offer significant benefits to California—which spends more than $15 million a year on eradication programs to keep exotic fruit flies from becoming endemic—as well as to Florida, which is in a similar situation, and Hawaii, which has been suffering from exotic fruit flies for nearly 100 years.
The most successful oriental fruit fly control tested by ARS entomologist Roger Vargas—who's with the agency's U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center in Hilo, Hawaii—is SPLAT-MAT, a combination of a substance called SPLAT and low doses of a toxicant called spinosad.
SPLAT is a waxy emulsion matrix containing the fruit fly lures methyl eugenol or cuelure. The "MAT" part of the name indicates that SPLAT-MAT attracts and kills only male fruit flies, making it a "male annihilation technique" (MAT) product.
SPLAT-MAT can be sprayed instead of confined to traps, and the formulation, which slowly releases semiochemical attractants, is exceptionally long lasting, even after rain. The product is being commercially developed by ISCA Technologies and Dow AgroSciences.
In initial tests with methyl eugenol, 10 to 12 weeks after application, SPLAT-MAT captured nearly 14 times as many oriental fruit flies as the carrier Min-U-Gel with Naled, which is the current product used against this species of fruit fly.
Spinosad—which comes from the soil bacterium Saccharopolyspora spinosa—is more environmentally friendly than the products currently used because it is considered to pose less risk to mammals, birds, fish and beneficial insects.
SPLAT-MAT can be applied by shooting it at telephone poles, tree trunks, stakes or other surfaces with a high-powered spray gun or even regular spray equipment. That speeds up delivery and eliminates the need to establish or replenish traps. It also lasts longer than gels currently in use.
ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief research agency.
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