Males of the oriental fruit fly, Bactrocera dorsalis (Hendel), are strongly attracted to methyl eugenol (ME), and recent work demonstrated that ingestion of this chemical enhances male mating success, apparently owing its role as a precursor in the synthesis of the male sex pheromone. The current study expanded upon earlier laboratory and field-cage experiments by assessing whether prerelease exposure to ME increased the mating competitiveness of mass-reared, sterile males in Hawaiian orchards. Releases of sterile males from a pupal color-based sexing strain were made weekly in two fruit orchards over 8 mo, with the sterile males at one site given ME for 24 h before release (treated) and the sterile males at the other site given no ME before release (control). Fruits were collected periodically during the study period, and eggs were dissected and incubated to score hatch rate. At both sites, releases of sterile males increased the proportion of unhatched eggs well above prerelease levels, but the incidence of egg sterility was consistently, and statistically, greater in the orchard receiving ME-exposed males. Computed over the entire release period, the average value of Frieds competitive index (that characterizes the mating success of sterile males relative to their wild counterparts) for ME-treated males was 3.5 times greater than that for control males, although this difference was not statistically significant. However, when computed over the period during which egg sterility values were elevated and stable, presumably when females inseminated before the releases were rare or absent, the competitive indices were significantly higher for ME-treated sterile males. The implications of these results for implementing the Sterile Insect Technique against this species are discussed.
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