Developing novel, cost efficient methods for controlling the invasive horticultural pest, Bactrocera tryoni (Queensland Fruit Fly)

By 06/30/2018Current Projects
HSF 18-6 | Amount: $ 53,272 | Project Leader: S Baxter | Project Period: Jul '18 - Jul '21

A project undertaken at The University of Melbourne, and supervised by Dr Simon Baxter

Additional participants, Thu Nguyen and Dr. Amanda Choo

Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) is a species-specific biocontrol strategy where sterile males are released to seek and mate with wild females. Only infertile embryos are produced, causing a localised population collapse. This approach is currently helping control outbreaks of the horticultural pest Queensland fruit fly (Bactrocera tryoni), however, improved efficiency is urgently required as it’s not yet possible to separate sterile males and females in rearing facilities.

Figure 1. Examples of male (left) and female (right) Queensland fruit fly (Bactrocera tryoni). The female lays embryos into ripening fruit.

This project aims to use CRISPR/Cas gene editing to develop new and efficient Queensland fruit fly strains for SIT. First, we will create small deletions in genes involved with body pigmentation to generate strains clearly distinguish from wild flies. Second, as only males are required for SIT, we will introduce temperature sensitive mutations to remove female flies from culture prior to sterilisation and SIT release. The production of improved Qfly SIT strains will increase efficiency of pest control and help reduce reliance on chemical pesticides.