March 22, 2010, Updated September 24, 2012

Israeli researchers are trying an organic approach to pest control by releasing super-sexed but sterile male insects.

The principle is to rear millions of individuals of the species you seek to control, separate the sexes, sterilize the males and release them into the field. If the sterile males copulate with wild females, the females will be unable to lay fertile eggs, thus reducing the pest populations.


Prof. Boaz Yuval of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment is working on upgrading this veteran approach, known as the sterile insect technique. The method is currently employed against several dozen insect species.

Since the process can adversely affect the male insects’ sexual competitiveness, Yuval and his fellow researchers are formulating a high-protein, bacteria enhanced “breakfast of champions” for the males which should significantly improve their sexual performance when released in the field. Their work is described in the International Society for Microbial Ecology Journal.

Yuval believes that this approach can be applied to a variety of plant and animal pests, as well as to organisms that transmit human disease.

The scientists hope to offer an efficient and promising avenue for supplying produce to the market by eliminating pests without negatively impacting human health or the environment.

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