Sterile Insect Release Facility Gets Upgrade

Kelsey FryGenetic Engineering, Pests

0305_brlo_medfly02.jpgJohn D. Renshaw, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) sterile insect technology director, says that the USDA Sterile Insect Release Facility is one of the department’s best-kept secrets. And since there are only 50 similar facilities worldwide, many might agree with him.

The sterile insect program in Sarasota, Florida, has been sterilizing male Mediterranean fruit flies (medflies) from its facility on the southeast side of the Bradenton-Sarasota International airport, but is now moving to a new location on the north side of the airport. The sterile flies are transported to the airport, where they are flown to infected areas and released from the aircraft.

Renshaw says that the male sterile insects are distributed over previously problematic areas such as Hillsborough County, Port of Tampa, Miami-Dade ports, Broward County, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. There have been many outbreaks that have been completely fixed by the sterile medflies operation.

Here’s how the sterile male Mediterranean fruit flies work: Male medflies, which have been stimulated with ginger oil, seek to mate with female medflies. The females then lay their eggs, but they will not hatch, ending their life cycle and preventing further destruction.

Renshaw says a builder and contractor have been selected for the relocation of the facility. He says that the building process will be quite lengthy, and expects that once the groundbreaking occurs, it will take 18 months to complete the project. It is expected to be finished in spring of 2018.

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Kelsey Fry