Community engaged in the fight against insect pests

22 October 2019

A recent study by scientists at Plant & Food Research and the University of Auckland shows strong public support for the use of the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) for controlling codling moth, with 98% of those surveyed in favour.

“SIT is an organically-accepted technique which can help suppress certain pests, especially when used in combination with other benign techniques like pheromones for mating disruption,” says Professor Max Suckling, Science Group Leader at Plant & Food Research and corresponding author. “Sterile insects are released via air or ground and prevent offspring in the next generation.”

Codling moth poses a significant economic risk for New Zealand – a single insect found in a box of export apples can impact access to an entire market for New Zealand apple exports. 

A recent pilot study using sterilised moths on private orchards in Hawkes Bay significantly reduced pest numbers. However, the acceptability of a potentially wider future programme, covering the main growing region (including public areas), depends on gaining broad community support in the target region. 

In this study, residents from households in Hastings were surveyed after being informed of the benefits of community engagement on biosecurity – such as having the opportunity to ask questions and voice concerns.

Those surveyed were not only supportive (98%) of using SIT to control codling moth, but most (98%) were also in favour of using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to disperse sterile moths and allowing access to their gardens for monitoring traps (private gardens could spread codling moth into nearby orchards). Almost all respondents also supported the use of SIT in an emergency fruit-fly or similar insect pest response.

“Community engagement is critical to the success of eradication and suppression programmes and the results from this survey will help inform decisions around a wider programme,” says Professor Suckling.

Pest control is a key requirement in New Zealand’s efforts to conserve its biodiversity and sustain primary production and these findings have implications for future pest incursions resulting from the globalization of trade and climate warming. 

Read the paper   Cover photo

Sarah Evans
Senior Communications Advisor, Corporate Communications,
Plant & Food Research Mt Albert,
120 Mt Albert Road, Sandringham
Auckland, 1025, New Zealand
Telephone: +64-9-925-3531
Mobile: +64-21-523-013