Irradiation of pupae in sterile insect technique (SIT) projects is usually undertaken in hypoxic atmospheres, which have been shown to lessen the deleterious effects of irradiation on the quality of adult sterile flies. Although this is the accepted technology in most mass-rearing and sterilization facilities, to date no information has been generated on the actual levels of oxygen (O2) in pupae-packing containers during irradiation. The present study utilized recently-developed technology to investigate the O2 level inside bags in which pupae of Mediterranean fruit fly (medfly) Ceratitis capitata (Wiedemann) are packed prior to irradiation, the ability of pupae to create hypoxic environments in these bags, and the effect of O2 atmospheres on the quality of irradiated males. Pupae, 1 d before adult emergence, were shown to deplete the O2 level in sealed bags in approximately 1 h. The rate of O2 consumption was dependent upon pupal age and incubation temperature. Incubation temperature did not significantly affect the quality of pupae or mating capacity of resultant adult males if pupae were irradiated under maximal hypoxic conditions inside packing bags. In contrast, mating competitiveness drastically decreased when pupae were irradiated under ambient O2 conditions, with the packing bag open. There was no difference in the mating capacity of males when pupae were irradiated in sealed bags under either 10% or 2% O2 levels, or under maximal hypoxia. Normal doses of fluorescent dye, applied to pupae to mark sterile flies, did not affect the ability of pupae to create hypoxic conditions inside packing bags, nor the quality control parameters of either pupae or adults. Current practices in mass-rearing facilities are discussed in the light of these results.
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