Coffee helps Q-flies in fertility futility

Caffeine helps fruit flies get on with gettin' it on

Horticulture
DUD: A sterile male Queensland fruit fly.

DUD: A sterile male Queensland fruit fly.

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Caffeine could be a secret ingredient to producing the ultimate sterile male fruit flies.

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COFFEE has been found to be something of a Viagra for male fruit flies, which may just help in curbing the pest.

Macquarie University researchers have found male Queensland Fruit Flies (Q-fly) reach sexual maturation faster after consuming caffeine supplements, partially due to a rapid increase in reproductive organ size.

The study was part of the Hort Innovation-driven SITPlus initiative which is looking at producing sterile male fruit flies to help control the insect.

What's more, caffeine not only increased their "reproductive prowess" but also shortened their time to reach sexual maturity.

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Caffeine fed Q-flies become sexually active in six to eight days while normal Q-flies take 10-12 days.

The flies were also keen to mate for a longer period before losing interest.

Researcher, Saleh Mohammad Adnan, said the finding has the potential to make sterile insect technique (SIT) that focusses on Q-flies even more effective.

"The whole idea of sterile insect technique is to breed an 'alpha' Q-fly that is sterile, and these are then released into the wild to attempt to procreate with wild pest females," he said.

"Which, in turn, leads to population-wide reproductive failure."

"Once the females mate with the sterile males, they live out the rest of their short lives happily, thinking they have done their innate reproductive duty."

WORK: Macquarie University researcher, Saleh Mohammad Adnan, says the caffeine research finding has the potential to make sterile insect technique (SIT) that focusses on Q-flies even more effective.

WORK: Macquarie University researcher, Saleh Mohammad Adnan, says the caffeine research finding has the potential to make sterile insect technique (SIT) that focusses on Q-flies even more effective.

Mr Adnan said researchers had bred a male Q-fly that is attractive to discerning female flies as part of the SITPlus program, and these new findings have the potential to make these sterile flies even more formidable.

"We have found that when we release sterile Q-flies from planes or ground vehicles to go and do their work with native females, some died before they could reach the age of sexual activity," he said.

"Supplementing their diet with caffeine may just address that issue by accelerating development."

According to Hort Innovation, Q-fly costs Australian farmers up to $300 million in lost markets each year.

SIT has been used globally to combat some of the most damaging fruit fly species, including Mediterranean Fruit Fly, and a variety of other fruit fly species.

Detailed findings relating to Mr Adnan's work are currently undergoing a peer review process in a high-impact entomology journal.

The story Coffee helps Q-flies in fertility futility first appeared on Good Fruit & Vegetables.

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