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Dangers of the Oriental Fruit Fly

January 4, 2017

oriental fruit fly on piece of fruit

Just last year, a major outbreak of Oriental fruit flies nearly shut down the massive agricultural industry of South Florida and was especially detrimental to the tropical fruit industry of the Redlands in the Miami-Dade area. Early in 2015, a state of agricultural emergency was declared in Miami-Dade County. This became one of the largest and most destructive outbreaks in Florida’s history, resulting in about 97 square miles of farmland being quarantined, which cost farmers millions in loss of production. Fortunately, in the end, the invasion was contained and eradicated about six months after it was discovered.

It was earlier this year when officials announced the successful eradication of the oriental fruit fly population, claiming that this Asian pest should no longer plague the fruit industry in Florida, but some farmers may still have concerns in the wake of the sudden and detrimental invasion of oriental fruit flies in 2015. It could be helpful to know a little bit more about these exotic pests and about how to prevent future outbreaks.

Oriental fruit flies are one of the most destructive agricultural pests on Earth.  They feed on over 400 kinds of plants, including bananas, mangos, watermelon, tomatoes, potatoes, lemons, and the list goes on and on. In 2015, they were most destructive to the bright-green avocado crops that southern Florida is known for.  In addition, to reproduce, they lay eggs inside the fruit, which makes the fruit unpleasant and renders it unsellable. This is why they have to strip all of the fruits that were produced in quarantined regions. Florida is no stranger to invasive species that threaten the natural balance, but the oriental fruit fly was the worst by far with the extensive and extremely costly consequences from the recent outbreak. The oriental fruit fly is usually found in areas ranging from southern China to northern India, and officials are not quite sure how it got to South Florida and this uncertainty breeds fear of another outbreak in the near future and makes it that much more necessary for farmers to do their part to prevent potential invasions and further spreading of all types of fruit flies .

Each and every single species of fruit fly pose a threat to farmers and the agricultural industry in general because their feeding and reproductive behaviors are destructive to fruits and vegetables. 

Before the massive outbreak in 2015, there had been multiple smaller outbreaks over the years that caused less costly damages and that were more easily contained, so officials already had various tools implemented to help protect farmers and prevent future outbreaks, but they became more meticulous and serious following the 2015 outbreak. These reinvigorated tools include officials placing over 56,000 traps throughout Florida that they monitor regularly to prevent future invasions of fruit flies, as well as enforcing regulations on the importing and exporting of fruits and vegetables to prevent spreading of fruit flies, and lastly implementing strict rules on production that the agricultural industry must adhere to in order to sell their produce. 

While the government does a lot to protect the agricultural industry in Florida, it would be more effective if farmers helped as well.  Teamwork makes the dream work!  So how can you do you part in the fight against fruit flies?

Pesticides are not the ideal option for a number of reasons, mainly concerning the safety of consumers, so it is good to know a few alternative fruit fly prevention methods. 

  • Area-wide management is pertinent to protect your land and produce from fruit flies, so work with other nearby farmers towards community-wide fruit fly control and prevention. 

  • Combine bait spraying and male annihilation technology to more effectively keep fruit flies off of your crops. Farmers should use bait comprised of a protein attractant and an insecticide, and they should bait spray the trunks and leaves of trees on a weekly basis. The male annihilation technology contains a pheromone (instead of a protein attractant) and usually needs to be applied to trees much less often, according to the directions on the product’s package. 

  • Cold treatment is a good way to assure the vendors that your produce will not spread fruit flies. 

  • The regular maintenance and good hygiene of your farm or orchard are essential in the fight against fruit flies. Mulching and removal of any fallen or leftover fruits and vegetables is important because it eliminates potential breeding grounds. Fruit flies are drawn to decaying vegetative plants because it fosters their growth so they will be less attracted to your farm if there are no moldy fruits on the ground. 

  • Numerous traps should be set up throughout the land in order to monitor and record the fruit fly population. Yellow traps were proven to be more effective, and setting them up on the eastern side of the tree is recommended in order to avoid intense afternoon sunlight. There are a variety of household items that can be used to make a fruit fly trap, including apple cider vinegar and dish soap.

If you have any questions about oriental fruit flies or if you are interested in our pest control services, please call one of our Nozzle Nolen representatives at (888) 685-0376.

Works Cited

Allen, Greg. "This Pest Has Shut Down South Florida's $700 Million Fruit Industry." NPR, 22 Sept. 2015. Web.

"Fruit Fly Control for Producers." Prevent Fruit Fly. Plant Health Australia, 2016. Web

Sheridan, Kerry. "Tiny Asian Pest Puts Squeeze on Florida Fruit Growers." Science X Network, 20 Oct. 2015. Web.

"Tiny Fly Rattling Florida Fruit Industry 'eradicated'" Science X Network, 17 Feb. 2016


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