Capacity Development Portal
Good Practices

Diseases and pests of animals and plants

  1. Biological pest control - example of water weeds
  2. Contingency planning for pests and diseases
  3. Capacity building: the Phytosanitary Capacity Evaluation
  4. Area-wide Insect Pest Eradication with Sterile Insects
  5. Early, community-level disease observation
  6. Networks in disease surveillance and control

Reducing insect pest populations by disrupting breeding patterns in a targeted manner

What problem did it address, where?

The New World Screwworm is a flesh-eating fly that attacks any minor wound on cattle, camels, other livestock, and wildlife and can so weaken the host animal as to kill it. It was eradicated from Caribbean islands, from the USA, from Mexico, and most of Central America, and from Libya when it was introduced accidentally in 1989, threatening livestock in North Africa, the Mediterranean region, and wildlife in SubSaharan Africa. Hundreds of millions of dollars of losses and the possible extinction of wild ruminant species were avoided by the application of sterile insect techniques. Tsetse flies that carry trypanosome parasites of livestock and people were eradicated from most of Zanzibar, reducing tremendously the threat/risk of trypanosomiasis to livestock and people. Mediterranean and other fruitflies, major trade-preventing pests, have been eradicated in Japan, USA, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Chile, Palestine, Jordan, Israel, Australia, and South Africa. The Joint FAO-IAEA Programme on Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture is the leading global centre for area-wide application of sterile insect techniques.


Millions of flies are produced in factories, then sterilized by well-controlled radiation treatment. Fly strains can be selected to produce more males than females. Large numbers of sterilized flies are packaged and then released, usually dropped by airplane, at least weekly for months. If normal females mate with a sterile male they cannot produce offspring. After enough months, usually less than 2 years in a target location, the fly population is eradicated. The strategy is more effective when the fly population is smaller, so initial insecticide treatments can be used to reduce the starting population temporarily, but treatments are stopped before releasing the sterile flies. Sterile flies must be released throughout the habitat of the pest population, not only near domestic animal herds or crops.

Where next?

For NW Screwworm flies in South America, progressing from north to south additional islands in Caribbean. Similar techniques as part of area-wide IPM programmes are now applied against coddling moth, including in Canada, and other caterpillar pests of horticultural crops. 

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