The aim of the current study was to investigate the effect of probiotic adult diets, i.e., adult diets containing viable symbiotic intestinal bacteria, on the pheromone-calling activity, mating success, life expectancy, and survival of mass-reared male Mediterranean fruit flies, Ceratitis capitata (Wiedemann), as an avenue for improving the field performance of sterile males in release programs to eradicate, suppress, or prevent spread of wild populations. The effect of inoculation of two standard adult diets (sugar-yeast granulate [SY] and sugar agar [s]) and two experimental formulations (yeast-reduced granulate [Sy] and yeast-enhanced sugar agar [sy]) with Enterobacter agglomerans and Klebsiella pneumoniae (typically occurring in the gut of wild flies) on the different fitness components was assessed in the laboratory and on field-caged host trees. We found that, in the laboratory, males reared on the probiotic yeast-enhanced agar, sy, had a significant mating advantage over competitors fed the standard s agar (probiotic and control) or noninoculated sy agar; no effect of probiotic enrichment (or lowering the yeast content) was found with the granular diets. Mating test results obtained in the field were inconsistent with laboratory data in that no differences in the numbers of matings were observed between males reared on any of the probiotic and control agar diets (or the SY granulate), whereas males feeding on the probiotic modified granulate, Sy, scored significantly more matings than their control competitors. The pheromone-calling activity of males maintained on the granular diets was not affected by probiotic enrichment on any of the seven observation days. Agar-fed males, however, “called” more frequently on days 6 and 7 (but not on days 1–5) when their diet contained the probiotic load. Laboratory survival of granulate-fed males was found to be significantly prolonged with probiotic inoculation and lowering the yeast content of the standard SY granulate (but not with probiotic inoculation of sy). Similarly, males reared on the probiotic and control modified agars (sy) survived significantly longer than those feeding on the standard s agars (inoculated and control). Again, the results obtained in the field were inconsistent, because no differences between treated and control males were found for any of the diets. The findings are discussed in the light of other published studies on adult nutrition and behavioral ecology in C. capitata.
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Vol. 97 • No. 5