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Fruit fly fallout – How the Oriental fruit fly situation affects South Florida growers

– A lot changed for Miami-Dade growers on Aug. 26, the day Oriental fruit flies were detected in the county. Concern began to build in the days that followed, and on Sept. 15, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam declared a state of emergency in the county because of the infestation.

The Oriental fruit fly is considered one of the most serious of the world’s fruit fly pests because of the damage it can wreak. It attacks more than 430 different fruits, vegetables and nuts, including avocado, mango, mamey, loquat, lychee, longan, dragon fruit, guava, papaya, sapodilla, banana and annona. The flies lay their eggs in host fruits and vegetables.

Since the first find, 165 flies had been detected as of Oct. 19 in the Redland area, Kendall and Miami.

“The Oriental fruit fly is one of the world’s most destructive pests and poses a significant threat to Florida’s $123 billion agriculture industry and the 2 million jobs it supports,” Putnam said when he declared the emergency. He promised to “use every weapon in our arsenal that’s necessary to eradicate this pest and protect Florida agriculture and our economy.”

One of the tools was aerial spraying. On the weekend of Oct. 2, the state conducted aerial spraying of an insecticide approved for organic farming called GF-120. No new finds were reported for almost a week until Oct. 10, when one male fly was detected “in an existing core and at a previously positive trap site,” a FDACS update stated.

Utility poles are treated with a bait to kill Oriental fruit flies.

In addition to the aerial spraying, efforts include:

  • Assisting industry with the requirements of compliance agreements
  • Quarantining an 85-square-mile area around the core areas where the fly has been detected to prevent its spread
  • Treating a 1.5-square-mile area around each fly detection. This treatment, which conducted by FDACS, involves attracting male flies to bait that consists of an attractant, an insecticide and a thickening agent. The flies die when they feed on the bait. The bait mixture is applied weekly to upper portions of telephone and utility poles. The application will continue for at least two life cycles of the fly after each find, which is about 60 days
  • Removal of fruit from host trees — while leaving the trees — within 200 meters of a larval or mature female fruit fly find

At this time, there are no plans to aerial spray again, state officials said.

The Redland quarantine area was determined by delineating an area that is within 4.5 miles in any direction from a property infested with Oriental fruit fly. “The boundaries were established using main roadways or other landmarks such as canals and waterways,” said Jennifer Meale, FDACS communications director.

The state has expanded the amount of time the quarantines will remain after major findings of flies. At Harvester deadline, the quarantine is in effect until Feb. 24, 2016 — 120 days from the last major find.

The compliance agreements require grower/packers to certify that they are willing to cooperate with the state’s eradication effort. The agreements require regular spraying of insecticide, mandatory inspections and certification of material that is to be moved out of the quarantine area.

Meale said 134 certificates had been issued as of Oct. 14 to growers who participated in a 30-day pre-harvest treatment option.

Growers have asked whether compensation for lost crops is planned. Though no compensation programs are available, Meale said that federal, state and local entities are exploring options for the growers affected by the program.

As of the posting of this article on Oct. 19, 165 remains the total fruit fly findings. The quarantine area remains the same as declared Oct. 5. See the map here.

Read the latest updates here.

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