Manipulation of the microbiota of mass-reared Mediterranean fruit flies Ceratitis capitata (Diptera: Tephritidae) improves sterile male sexual performance

Eyal Ben Ami*, Boaz Yuval, Edouard Jurkevitch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

185 Scopus citations


The sterile insect technique (SIT) is a method of biological control whereby millions of factory reared sterile male insects are released into the field. This technique is commonly used to combat the Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata, Diptera: Tephritidae). Sterile medfly males are less competent in attracting and mating with wild females, a property commonly linked to the irradiation process responsible for the sterilization. As bacteria are important partners in the fly's life cycle, we used molecular analytical methods to study the community structure of the gut microbiota in irradiated male medflies. We find that the sterilizing irradiation procedure affects the gut bacterial community structure of the Mediterranean fruit fly. Although the Enterobacteriaceae family remains the dominant bacterial group present in the gut, the levels of Klebsiella species decreases significantly in the days after sterilization. In addition, we detected substantial differences in some bacterial species between the mass rearing strain Vienna 8 and the wild strain. Most notable among these are the increased levels of the potentially pathogenic species Pseudomonas in the industrial strain. Testing the hypothesis that regenerating the original microbiota community could result in enhanced competitiveness of the sterile flies, we found that the addition of the bacterial species Klebsiella oxytoca to the postirradiation diet enables colonization of these bacteria in the gut while resulting in decreased levels of the Pseudomonas sp. Feeding on diets containing bacteria significantly improved sterile male performance in copulatory tests. Further studies will determine the feasibility of bacterial amelioration in SIT operations.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)28-37
Number of pages10
JournalISME Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Ofra Matan for technical assistance, Inbar Shouster-Dagan and Biofly inc. for providing the flies and Shai Morin for advice on statistical analysis. This study was supported by grants from the Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD, grant number 3934-06C) and the International Atomic Energy Agency.


  • Gut microbiology
  • Medfly
  • Sterile insect technique


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