Industry News | November 17, 2010

Dangerous Fruit Fly Found in Florida

Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson announced that a peach fruit fly, Bactrocera zonata, was found in a trap in a guava tree in Miami-Dade County. The fly was found by a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector during routine surveillance activities earlier this month. This is the first Florida find for this species of fruit fly.

"This is a disturbing find because of the extreme risks associated with exotic fruit fly infestations," Bronson says. "However, it is a clear indication that our fruit fly detection and monitoring program is working well, and fortunately, we have developed effective emergency response plans that in most cases allow us to quickly eradicate these dangerous pests. The state, along with our federal partner, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is pouring all available resources into this find in Miami-Dade County."

The peach fruit fly is considered one of the most serious of the world's fruit fly pests due to its potential economic harm. It attacks many different fruits, vegetables, and nuts, including mango, guava, citrus, eggplant, tomato, apple, peach, melon, loquat, almond, and fig. The fruit flies lay their eggs in the fruits and vegetables. In a few days, the eggs hatch and maggots render the fruits or vegetables inedible.

The department, along with its federal counterpart, launched an intensified trapping program in an 81-square-mile area surrounding the fruit fly find. If any more flies are found, trapping will continue, and an insecticide may be applied to telephone poles along with a substance that attracts the flies.

The public will be notified 24 hours prior to the application of any insecticides or other treatment activities. Should this be necessary, additional outreach activities will be conducted to provide all relevant information.

Agricultural officials are attempting to determine the source of the fruit that carried this fly into Florida. Anyone with information on the possible origin of this fly is encouraged to call the USDA's anti-smuggling hotline at 1-800-877-3835.

This marks the third exotic fruit fly find in Florida this year. In June, Mediterranean fruit flies were trapped in Palm Beach County, and a full-scale, three-month eradication program was conducted, one of the shortest in U.S. history. In August, two Oriental fruit flies were found in a trap in Pinellas County, where trapping continues and no additional flies have been found. This year alone, about $7 million has been spent on the Palm Beach and Pinellas county programs.

"What these multiple incursions of exotic fruit flies into Florida are telling us is that even with our successful statewide fruit fly detection and monitoring efforts and preventive sterile fly release program, harmful pests and diseases are still being brought into the state by the traveling public," Bronson says. "We must continue to raise public awareness about the risks associated with moving agricultural products without proper certification. We're asking the public to refrain from bringing any plant material in from another country to reduce the incidence of invasive pests."

State and federal agencies will work with local governments to keep the public involved and to provide updated information. More information can be found at the department's website at http://www.fl-dpi.com/enpp/ento/exoticfruitflies.html, including maps of the detection area and detailed information on the peach fruit fly. Residents can also call the department's toll-free help number at 1-888-397-1517.

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