No more coddling for Codling Moth: sterile insect trial underway in Tasmania

Dr Sally Bound in an apple orchard in the Huon Valley, Tasmania

For the first time in Australia, a form of fertility control is being trialled to manage a major pest to the apple industry, codling moth.

Researchers at the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) are partnering with local apple growers to pilot a controlled sterile insect release program. It has enormous potential to change the way codling moth is managed in Australian apples.

Codling moth is one of the most economically damaging pests of apples. In an unmanaged orchard, they can wipe out 50-90 per cent of the fruit.

TIA Senior Research Fellow, Dr Sally Bound leads the pilot program which is taking place across three apple orchards in Tasmania’s Huon Valley. The program is importing sterilised moths from Canada for release in the test orchards.

The program works by flooding the wild population with large numbers of sterile males to substantially reduce the number of fertile eggs produced,” Dr Bound said. “The moths can mate with each other, but no offspring are produced. When this is repeated over a number of seasons, the population crashes, meaning growers no longer need to apply pesticides for codling moth.”

The method is currently used to manage Queensland fruit fly on the mainland and is an environmentally friendly way of controlling insect pests, reducing pesticide use and fruit damage.

Read more about this exciting trial here.