Oral Annual Conference of the Genetics Society of Australasia with the NZ Society for Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

Using population genetics and genomics as next-generation approaches for the control of invasive insects: social wasps as a case study (670)

Phil Lester 1 , Neil Gemmell 2 , Dan Tompkins 3 , Aidin Jalilzadeh 3 , Peter Dearden 4
  1. School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington
  2. Department of Anatomy, University of Otago, Dunedin
  3. Landcare Research Limited, Dunedin
  4. Department of Biochemistry, University of Otago, Dunedin

A major goal of New Zealand's National Science Challenge is to develop socially acceptable, cost-effective and highly targeted nest generation technologies for pest control. In this talk we will discuss three genetics based approaches being developed for the control of social insects as model pests. The first approach uses the Trojan Female Technique, which utilises naturally occurring mitochondrial mutations associated with low fertility. We have identified wasp haplotypes in New Zealand that are associated with low fitness and mathematically modelled their use in pest control. The second approach uses gene silencing or RNAi, referred to in pest control as "the next generation of insecticides". Our preliminary gene silencing trials have indicated it is possible to alter gene expression in social insects. Reducing the expression of immune genes can result in higher levels of virus loads in invasive insects, such as Argentine ants. The third suggested approach examines the use of gene drives for the eradication of wasps from New Zealand. Each control approach has advantages, disadvantages and needs social licence to operate before they can be implemented.