Sainsbury’s protects apple crops by turning moths gay

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 13th April 2010

UK supermarket chain Sainsbury’s has begun using a new pest control technique to combat moth infestation by turning the insects gay.

Three orchards are now established using the new technique, which involves spraying male moths with an imitation of female pheromones, causing males to become attracted to other males, which disrupts the breeding cycle and vastly reduces the number of viable moth eggs.

Codling moths (Cydia pomonella) can devastate apple crops, as well as attacking pears and other fruits. Codling moth larvae, the traditional ‘worm in the apple’, hatch on leaves or fruit and then burrow inside to hollow the fruit out.

Previous mating disruption techniques have been successful, luring moths into pheromone traps, however this is the first time the moths themselves have been sprayed.

The new technique is expected to save on millions of dollars’ worth of ruined fruit.  In addition, it will reduce the need for pesticides, and can be safely used on conventional and organic crops.