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Project name Pilot sterile codling moth releases for the apple industry
Funding bodies Horticulture Innovation
Lead researcher Dr Sally Bound
Partners Tasmanian Government; Fruit Growers Tasmania; Lenswood Coop; South Australian Research & Development Institute
Contributors Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry
Codling moth frass

A pilot sterile insect release program for controlling codling moth is being evaluated in three Tasmanian apple orchards.

Codling moth (Cydia pomonella) is a major pest of apples in all growing regions of Australia except Western Australia.   It is one of the most economically damaging pests of apples causing direct damage to fruit as it feeds.  If left unchecked codling moth can damage 50-90% of fruit, decimating the crop. Codling moth also infest quince, pear, nashi, summer fruit, walnut and chestnut which if left unmanaged, can reinfest nearby apple orchards.

The use of sterile insect technique (SIT) is an environmentally friendly method of controlling insect pests that can work well in conjunction with other methods of integrated pest management.

The pilot program is assessing sterile moth viability and competitiveness, determining the logistics of importation and release, developing recommendations for adoption and integration of sterile releases into an integrated pest management program, and undertaking an economic assessment of the release program.

Benefits of Sterile Insect Technology (SIT)

Environmentally friendly

The sterile codling moth release program has reduced  codling moth pesticide use by over 90% in both Canada and New Zealand where the program has been running for many years.

Effective management of codling moth

Wild codling moth levels have been reduced by over 90% in Canada and New Zealand orchards using the sterile codling moth program.  Treated regions of Hawkes Bay  in New Zealand have recorded an impressive 98% reduction in the catch of wild moths after only a few years of the program.

Sterile insect technology (SIT)

The use of sterile insect technology (SIT) is a relatively new strategy being developed for a range of pests, with fruit fly being a prime example of SIT technology in Australia. The method is an environmentally friendly way of controlling insect pests that can work well in conjunction with other IPM methods.

SIT programs work by flooding the wild population with large numbers of sterile males to substantially reduce the number of fertile eggs produced.  When this is repeated over a number of seasons, the population crashes and infestations drop below damage threshold levels.

Tasmanian Pilot Program


The project has established a secure import pathway for sterile codling moths from the production facility Okanagen-Kootenay Sterile Insect Reslease (OKSIR) facility in Canada.  The sterile moths are chilled and packaged then air freighted to Tasmania, the whole process currently takes 48 hrs from packing to release in Tasmania.


The sterile moths are imported and released every week from November through to February.  Around 6,000 moths are released per hectare over three trial sites in the Huon Valley in Southern Tasmania.  The release sites have been chosen due to their isolation from export apple blocks, large buffers of non-host vegetation and minimal pesticide use.

Releasing codling moth


Sterile and wild codling moth numbers are monitored with traps located in both the treated  trial orchards and nearby control orchards.  Each week the number of moths are counted and verified as either sterile or wild.

Field monitoring codling moth


The program is laboratory testing the vigour, health and mating ability of imported sterile codling moths.  Samples from three shipments will undergo laboratory tests including: Counting males and females;  Longevity - how long do moths live after arrival under different;  conditions? Mating ability - how many female moths successfully mate  with male moths;  Flight ability - how well do sterile moths fly?

Testing codling moths in lab

Economic evaluation

The program will evaluate the cost benefit of a sterile codling moth release program.  This will explore the options of both importing live moths from OKSIR and the establishment of a production facility in Australia.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

There is a lot to know about sterile insect technology so we have put together some answers to some more common questions.

Frequently asked questions

If you have any more, please  contact Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture.

Hort Innovation Apple & Pear fund acknowledgement