The sterile moths aiming to help curb navel orangeworm (NOW) populations aren’t performing very well on a small-scale. Research is following the project that is releasing sterile NOW moths into pistachio orchards. “Anytime you’re blasting an insect with a lot of irradiation you’re likely going to encounter some difficulties,” UC Cooperative Extension Specialist Houston Wilson said. “Yes, it sterilizes the insect but then what else does that effect in terms of their ability to behave and be competitive like a wild moth would be.”
Wilson is conducting smaller experiments at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, in a pest-friendly environment, to see how effective the practice can be. Wilson said they released the sterile moths into their fields as gently as possible but the irradiated males seemed to not be very active. “We were very rarely recovering any other males in our flight traps,” Wilson said. “In addition, we also set up mating tables with unirradiated females…we never recovered any sterile males in these mating tables.”
Wilson stressed this does not mean the moths or the practice isn’t working and more research needs to take place as the pilot project continues.