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New cold storage technology could help improving fruit fly management in Australia

Dr Maurizio Benelli, researcher at Macquarie University (Sydney, NSW), is an Applied Entomologist with expertise in developing cold storage technologies for use in insect mass-rearing programs, in-vitro rearing techniques of entomophagous insects, and quality control protocols. He is particularly interested in developing innovative methodologies for suppressing insect pests below economic thresholds in Australian Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs.

Dr Benelli has been working for years to improve Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) against the Queensland fruit fly (Q-fly), a major insect pest in Australia. For SIT to be effective, millions of high-quality male flies produced continuously by mass-rearing facilities are needed. However, mass-reared insects usually have a short shelf-life, needing to be used almost immediately after production. Cold storage is a valuable tool for prolonging the developmental time of insects by exposing them to sub-optimal temperatures. Considering the complexity of synchronizing field releases during large pest outbreaks, an increased shelf-life of sterile flies with no (or minimal) loss of post-release performance can increase flexibility in timing of delivery. Dr Benelli says that this technology may also result in other advantages, such as a more adaptable rearing process, a cost reduction and a better understanding of the Q-fly thermal biology. Studies were conducted at Macquarie University to establish protocols for cold storage of Q-fly eggs and pupae, investigating both the duration of attainable storage and the consequences for standard quality control parameters used to assess the quality of mass-reared fruit flies.

Dr Benelli and his coauthors have published their findings in two scientific papers in Pest Management Science.

"Cool storage of Queensland fruit fly eggs for increased flexibility in rearing programs"

M. Benelli, F. Ponton & P. W. Taylor

Read the publication.

"Cool storage of Queensland fruit fly pupae for improved management of mass production schedules"

M. Benelli, F. Ponton, U. Lallu, K. A. Mitchell & P. W. Taylor

Read the publication.

Photo: Dr Maurizio Benelli, from Macquarie University, presenting his research at an international scientific conference overseas.