Florida Agriculture & Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson
announced Sept. 1 that eradication has been declared in the Mediterranean
fruit fly outbreak in Palm Beach County.
Regulations have been lifted, and fruit movement is no longer prohibited.
Eradication is achieved when three life cycles of the Medfly (approximately 60
days) have passed without finding another wild Medfly.
"We are extremely relieved that the Medfly outbreak in southern Palm Beach
County has been eradicated — and done so in short order," Mr. Bronson said
in a Sept. 1 press release. “This is one of the fastest eradication programs on
record in Florida, and the credit goes to the outstanding efforts of our
Incident Command Team and the fact that the citizens there were extremely
cooperative. This was the first major Medfly outbreak since the nine-county
$32 million eradication program in 1997 and 1998.”
The harmful pest was first discovered during routine fruit fly trap monitoring
in June. A trap containing Mediterranean fruit flies, Ceratitis capitata, was
collected in Boca Raton, FL, by an inspector with the Florida Department of
Agriculture & Consumer Services' Division of Plant Industry. A cooperative
effort between the department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture
involving intensified trapping, and treatment was begun. Regulations were
put in place to prohibit the movement of host fruit outside the regulated area.
In addition, sterile Mediterranean fruit flies were released to mate with the
wild flies and prevent them from reproducing.
The Mediterranean fruit fly is considered one of the more serious of the
world’s fruit fly pests due to its potential economic harm and threat to the
food supply. It attacks more than 250 different fruits, vegetables and nuts,
including oranges, grapefruit, lemons, apples, guava, mango, tomatoes and
peppers. Population growth can be explosive, as females are capable of
producing hundreds of eggs.
A joint state and federal program continually monitors over 56,000 fruit fly
traps across the state, and to further prevent the establishment of exotic fruit
flies, the Sterile Insect Technique and Mediterranean Fruit Fly Preventive
Release Program began in 1999. Millions of sterile Medflies are released
throughout high-risk areas of the state. Prior to the Palm Beach County
Medfly find, there had been no Medfly outbreak since the release program
“Again, the success of this eradication program is due in large part to the
cooperation and support of the residents, businesses and local governments
of Boca Raton, Delray Beach [FL] and Boynton Beach [FL],” Mr. Bronson added
in the release. “Allowing us access to properties and complying with
regulations resulted in some hardships, and we appreciate those sacrifices. In
the long run, though, it will ensure a bounty of healthy fruits and vegetables
in years to come. We offer a sincere thank you to all who helped in this
In summary, eradication means that the ban on fruit movement is lifted and
that all businesses under compliance agreements are released from all
regulatory requirements of the program. Trapping will continue under the
statewide fruit fly detection and monitoring program, and sterile Medflies will
continue to be released as a preventive measure.
Federal and state agriculture officials will continue to educate the public about
the risks associated with bringing agricultural products illegally (whether
knowingly or not) into the state that may harbor harmful pests and diseases
such as the Medfly.
One piece of infested fruit likely caused this multimillion-dollar eradication
program that prevented residents from enjoying — and businesses from
selling — their fruits and vegetables for a three-month period, and could have
potentially wiped out entire crops. The message being promoted is “Don’t
Pack a Pest. When traveling, don’t move agricultural products.”