26 September 2023

Sterility called in to eradicate Qfly

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The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development is trialling a 30-year-old technique in Perth’s western suburbs aimed at eradicating any remaining Queensland fruit fly (Qfly) from the area.

The Department has been responding to an outbreak of Qfly since March, undertaking a program including surveillance, fruit hygiene, mass trapping and baiting to eradicate the pest.

Now the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) will be trialled in the Quarantine Area to interrupt the breeding cycle of any remaining Qfly.

Sterile Qfly will be released on a weekly basis to mate with any residual wild Qfly, resulting in infertile eggs and no future hatchings of fruit fly larvae. The sterile flies are dyed with a fluorescent powder which glows under UV light for easy identification.

Minister for Agriculture and Food, Alannah MacTiernan said the Department would assess the effectiveness of the program by checking the traps in the Quarantine Area weekly and examining any adult Qfly found under a fluorescent microscope to determine if they are SIT or wild Qfly.

“The SIT technology was used to successfully eradicate Qfly from an area covering approximately 800 square kilometres across Perth in 1990,” Ms MacTiernan said.

“Our team has put a massive effort into this response: More than 120,000 property inspections have been completed, 250,000 host plants identified and close to 20,000 baiting and trapping devices deployed. It is paying off.”

She said releasing sterile flies while the Qfly population was very low, allowed the Department to mop up any remaining wild Qfly in the outbreak area.

Qfly is one of the world’s worst fruit pests, attacking a wide range of fruits, some fruiting vegetables and some ornamental plants.

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