Plans to create a new trap for the Australian blowfly have been given a major cash injection thanks to a $780,000 grant from the Australian Research Council's Linkage Program.
Perth-based provenance verification provider Source Certain and Deakin University have teamed up for the multidisciplinary project, which includes entomology, biotechnology, analytical chemistry and genomics and aims to fight back against flystrike's effects on the sheep and wool industries.
The research team will undertake a combination of genome analysis and advanced chemical analysis over the next three and a half years to gain new insight into what attracts the Australian blowfly to Merino sheep.
Those scientific insights will then be used to develop a new trap, which mimics the chemical signals emitted by sheep which attract Lucilia cuprina, the Australian sheep blowfly.
Source Certain's Head of Research and Education and renowned forensic entomologist Ian Dadour said growers had been crying out for more research to be done into ways to control the Australian blowfly.
"The new approach is to look at the swarming behaviour of the bacteria on the fleece and the odours that they emit, which has not been done before," he said.
Scientists plan to use what they find to then develop a kairomone, or chemical signal, and place it into traps.
This project aims to overcome the reliance on insecticides within the sheep industry, using blowflies' own cues to target them before fleece rot occurs, cutting strike numbers and breaking the fly breeding cycle.
Professor Dadour said offal bait bins and the LuciTrap, which had been developed in the past to trap and reduce fly populations, had both proved labour intensive.
"The LuciTrap is probably one trap for every thousand head of sheep and maybe this may have to go the same way," he said.
"We need farmers to be able to use this trap and it to not be hugely labour intensive for them but still take out at least 57 per cent of the sheep blowfly population per day of what's out there and that's got to include 25pc of the female to have any real effect in reduction of sheep blowfly.
"Of course that will then de-escalate things like mulesing and having to use insecticides which flies are becoming more and more resistant to."
It has been found that offal bait bins can achieve a 95pc reduction in blowfly populations, while the LuciLure synthetic lure can reduce populations by up to 50pc when used in conjunction with insecticides, making it more of a monitoring tool rather than suited to broad scale fly control.
The project to develop the new variety of trap will be field-tested in sheep farming communities of Western Australia and Victoria, including on sheep stations around the Esperance area.
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