The sterile insect technique (SIT) is widely used in integrated programs against the Mediterranean fruit fly, Ceratitis capitata (Wiedemann) (Diptera: Tephritidae). Unfortunately, the mass-rearing procedures inherent to the SIT often lead to a reduction in the mating ability of the released males. To counter this deficiency, SIT programs rely upon the production and release of large numbers of sterile males to achieve high overflooding (sterile:wild male) ratios. To ensure a high release volume, emergence facilities release adult males at a young age (2 d old in some cases). The primary objective of this study was to describe age-dependent variation in the mating propensity and competitiveness of sterile males of C. capitata. Males that were 2 or 3 d old had lower mating propensity than males that were ≥4 d old, and 3-d-old males had lower mating competitiveness than males that were ≥4 d old. Given these results, we measured the effect of a longer holding period on male mortality in storage boxes. With delayed food placement, males held in storage boxes for 4 d after emergence showed no higher mortality than males held for only 2 d (the standard interval). Using large field enclosures, we compared the levels of egg sterility attained via releases of 2- versus 4-d-old sterile males at two overflooding ratios (5:1 and 100:1). At the lower ratio, the proportion of unhatched eggs observed for trials involving 2-d-old sterile males was not, on average, significantly higher than that observed for matings between wild flies (33 versus 25%, respectively), whereas the level of egg sterility observed for releases of 4 d old sterile males was 62%. At the 100:1 overflooding ratio, the proportion of unhatched eggs associated with the 2-d-old sterile males was 58%, a level not significantly different from that induced by 4-d-old sterile males at the 5:1 ratio and significantly lower than the level (79%) observed for 4-d-old sterile males at 100:1 overflooding ratio. The implications of these results for SIT are discussed.
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Vol. 100 • No. 4