Ag officials launch emergency action targeting Oriental fruit flies in SJ to protect local harvest

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Sunday, September 4, 2022
CA Ag officials launch emergency action targeting Oriental fruit fly
California Agriculture officials launched an emergency action, targeting Oriental fruit flies in San Jose in order to protect the local harvest.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Santa Clara County and State Agricultural officials are sounding the alarm.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) will launch emergency action to eradicate Oriental fruit flies found in San Jose. The department has declared the insects a significant threat to the natural environment, agriculture and economy of California.

"There's multiple layers of environmental damage, food damage, economic damage, and export damage," Santa Clara County Agricultural Commissioner Joe Deviney told ABC7 News.

The small flies have the potential to make a significant impact.

Treatment to target the species, which is native to Asia, begins on Saturday.

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Officials want to prevent a widespread infestation that could potentially impact California's $50 billion ag industry.

"We supply the world with fruits and vegetables. But those other countries would say, 'Hold up. We don't want that anymore. You guys got a problem. Don't ship us your infestation, please,'" Deviney said.

CDFA said the value of the state's crops threatened by the fruit fly in 2020 was $19.3 billion.

Deviney explained the fly is a pest to more than 230 kinds of fruit and vegetables. Among the list of valuable crops are California's avocados, apples, persimmon, stone and citrus fruits and more.

Back in October, ABC7 News reported a large portion of the county was under a fruit quarantine after nine of these tropical flies were found.

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"We had to basically lock that area down for fruit movement. We don't want any of the fruit moving out because that would possibly spread the fly, and then we also immediately connected with all the businesses who sell fruit or have fruit trees, or farmers markets and we got those all into compliance," Deviney said.

"We successfully eradicated that whole infestation. Hooray," he added. "Boom! We are finding more this year. So, there's obviously a pathway, because this insect does not occur in the United States."

Deviney said it's not a good thing that we're seeing them again so soon.

In this new response, officials will target two sites in San Jose where two male Oriental fruit flies were trapped last month. Workers will squirt a small patch of attractant, mixed with organic pesticide on street trees and similar surfaces. The male fruit flies eat it, then die.

Deviney said the insect has a very fast life cycle and female flies lay a tremendous number of eggs.

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For those reasons, he's reminding that people should not bring back produce when traveling.

"They didn't fly here," he said about the flies. "They were hitchhiking here inside of fruit. Usually, the eggs are in there and then they emerge, once here."

Regarding the transportation of foreign fruit, Deviney told ABC7 News, "We'd love to find out if somebody's innocently doing it or if somebody's doing it on purpose to be able to sell it."

Treatment begins today, Sept. 3.

"If we stop catching flies for a few months, that means they've gone through a few life cycles -- or better yet, not gone through a few life cycles -- not bred not had more eggs," he said.

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