Enabling technologies to improve area-wide integrated pest management programmes for the control of screwworms

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The economic devastation caused in the past by the New World screwworm fly Cochliomyia hominivorax (Coquerel) (Diptera: Calliphoridae) to the livestock industry in the U.S.A., Mexico and the rest of Central America was staggering. The eradication of this major livestock pest from North and Central America using the sterile insect technique (SIT) as part of an area-wide integrated pest management (AW-IPM) programme was a phenomenal technical and managerial accomplishment with enormous economic implications. The area is maintained screwworm-free by the weekly release of 40 million sterile flies in the Darien Gap in Panama, which prevents migration from screwworm-infested areas in Columbia. However, the species is still a major pest in many areas of the Caribbean and South America and there is considerable interest in extending the eradication programme to these countries. Understanding New World screwworm fly populations in the Caribbean and South America, which represent a continuous threat to the screwworm-free areas of Central America and the U.S.A., is a prerequisite to any future eradication campaigns. The Old World screwworm fly Chrysomya bezziana Villeneuve (Diptera: Calliphoridae) has a very wide distribution ranging from Southern Africa to Papua New Guinea and, although its economic importance is assumed to be less than that of its New World counterpart, it is a serious pest in extensive livestock production and a constant threat to pest-free areas such as Australia. In the 1980s repeated introductions and an expansion of Old World screwworm populations were reported in the Middle East; in the 1990s it invaded Iraq and since late 2007 it has been reported in Yemen, where a severe outbreak of myiasis occurred in 2008. Small-scale field trials have shown the potential of integrating the SIT in the control of this pest and various international organizations are considering using the release of sterile insects as part of an AW-IPM approach on a much wider scale. Wohlfahrtia magnifica (Schiner) (Diptera: Sarcophagidae) is a screwworm of temperate regions, which, although of limited agricultural importance, has invaded several new locations in the past few years. This special issue reports on the results of a 6-year project funded by the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations/International Atomic Energy Agency (FAO/IAEA) Programme of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture entitled ‘Enabling Technologies for the Expansion of the SIT for Old and New World Screwworm’. A major goal of the project was to better understand population genetic variation in screwworms as an aid to the identification of isolated populations. The project also addressed issues related to genetic sexing, cuticular hydrocarbons, population dynamics, genetic transformation and chromosome analysis.

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