Crews trying to eliminate fruit flies in Cupertino

An effort began Friday to eradicate a dangerous pest in a South Bay neighborhood.
October 25, 2013 5:11:45 PM PDT
An effort began Friday to eradicate a dangerous pest in a South Bay neighborhood.

The Oriental Fruit Fly is a major threat to California agriculture. Two fruit flies were trapped in a residential area near the intersection of Higway 85 and De Anza Boulevard. The flies are fast breeders and that's why Santa Clara County has sprung into action

A 10-mile square area is being targeted. Agriculture teams have already hit the streets of Cupertino setting traps that contain a sticky residue they say is irresistible to the male fruit fly. But the residue is bait which contains a small amount of insecticide that kills them.

The attractant is placed high enough in trees and on light poles so it doesn't pose a risk to children or the public at large.

The oriental fruit fly is native to Thailand and other South Asian countries. It's believed someone may have brought in contaminated fruit into the U.S. or shipped it in.

While the male is the target of the eradication program, that tactic prevents the female from breeding. "The female is not picky about where she lays her eggs. She'll lay her eggs in 230 different fruits and vegetables, and she'll live for about three months and in that lifetime, she'll lay about 1,000 eggs," explained Deputy Agriculture Commissioner Michelle Thom.

"And so, it's the maggots that are the real problem. You can imagine going to your tomato garden and there's no tomatoes because they're just infested with maggots," she said.

The bait stations lose potency over time, so they have to be refreshed about every two weeks. How long this will continue depends on the weather. The oriental fruit fly goes dormant when it gets cold but when temperatures rise, it resumes its breeding process.

Hundreds of traps will have to be set out. Crews plan to set one about every 200 feet.

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