The Mexican fruit fly, Anastrepha ludens, is a serious pest of crops in California. So much so, that the California Department of Food and Agriculture routienly monitors for the pest. Recently, several flies were found in traps, and this prompted a swift reaction from authorities. Pesticides were applied by hand, and the state has begun its sterile fly drop. This is where things get interesting.
A. ludens only mates once. If a fertile male mates with a sterile female, the infestation can be curbed effectively. Entomologists sterilize millions of females using radiation, then dye them special colors so trappers can tell the difference between fertile and sterile flies. They then chill the ladies to knock them out, gather them into huge balls, and drop them out of planes over infested areas. The drop warms the flies, who wake up and fly away before hitting the ground. Bugs are fun, y’all!