Male mating competitiveness is a crucial parameter in many genetic control programs including the sterile insect technique (SIT). We evaluated competitiveness of male Anopheles arabiensis Patton as a function of three experimental variables: (1) small or large cages for mating, (2) the effects of either a partially sterilizing (70 Gy) or fully sterilizing (120 Gy) dose, and (3) pupal or adult irradiation. Irradiated males competed for females with an equal number of unirradiated males. Competitiveness was determined by measuring hatch rates of individually laid egg batches. In small cages, pupal irradiation with the high dose resulted in the lowest competitiveness, whereas adult irradiation with the low dose gave the highest, with the latter males being equal in competitiveness to unirradiated males. In the large cage, reduced competitiveness of males irradiated in the pupal stage was more pronounced compared with the small cage; the males irradiated as adults at both doses performed similarly to unirradiated males. Unexpectedly, males irradiated with the high dose performed better in a large cage than in a small one. A high proportion of intermediate hatch rates was observed for eggs collected in the large cage experiments with males irradiated at the pupal stage. It is concluded that irradiation of adult An. arabiensis with the partially sterilizing dose results in the highest competitiveness for both cage designs. Cage size affected competitiveness for some treatments; therefore, competitiveness determined in laboratory experiments must be confirmed by releases into simulated field conditions. The protocols described are readily transferable to evaluate male competitiveness for other genetic control techniques.
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