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Generating sterile male insects using electron beam irradiation for crop pest control

Technology Overview

Fruit flies can cause extensive damage to farmers’ crops. Adult female fruit flies lay eggs in the flesh of ripening and ripe fruits. These eggs later hatch and evolve into larvae which feed from the inside of the fruits and cause these fruits to rot and fall onto the ground.

With fruit fly attacks resulting in heavy losses faced by farmers, efforts have been implemented to control the fruit fly population. A method is sterile insect release technique (SIT), which involves sterilizing males by irradiation and releasing them outdoor for mating with wild females to derive unfertilized eggs. However, the irradiation method presents disadvantages of decreased mating ability of sterile males, and shortened life span of these males, which reduces the efficiency of SIT in controlling fruit fly population.

The technology presents a sterile male generation method using electron beam radiation. Electron beam radiation produces infertile males with comparable mating ability without impacting on their life span. Furthermore, the technology presents another advantage of reducing the density of infertile males required for fruit fly population control. Therefore, the current infertile male fly generation method can be implemented for SIT programs to control fruit fly population.

The technology provider is seeking collaboration with partners in the crop and pest industries for co-development, and testing and evaluation of the technology.

Technology Features, Specifications and Advantages

Male insect pupae are irradiated with electron beam at 200 Gy to sterilize them. These infertile males develop and mate with females without much significant difference in mating ability when compared to untreated males. As a result, the eggs laid by the females post-mating do not hatch. Furthermore, the survival rates of these infertile males exhibit no difference from that of normal males. The technology presents another advantage where it does not require as many infertile males as with what the conventional irradiations would require. By mixing treated infertile males with normal males at a ratio of 9:1 and having them mate with female flies, the laid eggs suffer significant infertility.

Traditional SIT programs use hazardous gamma radiation or X-rays to generate sterile males. Electron beam is fairly safe for users and can be accessed by general users. The sterile males generated by the electron beam are highly infertile for use in SIT programs.

Potential Applications

With climate changes, there have been frequent invasions of flies and insect pests. SIT is currently applied to control various invasive insect pests including fruit flies in USA, China, Korea, Japan, and Europe. SIT programs are expensive to implement with each costing in the million dollars-range. The current technology can be applied in these SIT programs to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the program by producing and releasing fitter sterile males with comparable mating ability and unaffected life span to mate with wild females.

Customer Benefits

In terms of safety, electron beam is superior compared to other forms of fruit fly sterilization methods including gamma radiation and X-rays.

The resulting quality of the sterility by the electron beam exhibits little difference when compared to conventional gamma radiation or X-rays.

Contact Person

Sun Ryu


Korea Rising Technology

Technology Category

  • Chemicals
  • Agrochemicals
  • Environment, Clean Air/Water
  • Life Sciences
  • Agriculture & Farming
  • Materials
  • Bio Materials

Technology Readiness Level


Genetic control, SIT