Background The development of the sterile insect technique (SIT) for reducing populations of Aedes albopictus (Skuse), (the vector of Chikungunya and Dengue fever), was studied in Reunion Island. For some mosquito species the sterilization process and mating activity may alter male survival. Most previous studies were carried out in the laboratory and may inadequately reflect the field situation. We conducted a semi-field experiment to evaluate the impact of sugar supply and mating activity under natural climatic conditions on wild and sterile male Ae. albopictus longevity, using large cages set up in an open clearing between trees and shrubs in Reunion Island. Results Wild males had a mean longevity of 15.5 days in the absence of females and with an immediate sugar supply; longevity in sterile males was similar. The presence of females greatly reduced both wild and especially sterile male lifespan; however, an immediate sugar supply could counteract this effect and allow sterile males to live an average of 11.6 days. Conclusion The outcomes indicate that sugar feeding could compensate for sterilization-induced damage, and that mating activity is not deleterious for well-fed males. This study stresses the critical importance of providing suitable sugar sources prior to release during SIT programmes.