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Devastating fruit fly find in Miami-Dade

by Chip Carter | November 21, 2010
Florida authorities announced Nov. 15 that a peach fruit fly — Bactrocera zonata — was found earlier this month during routine surveillance activities in Miami-Dade County. It is the first time the species has been found in the state.

The peach fruit fly is considered particularly devastating because it attacks and compromises a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and nuts, such as mangos, guavas, citrus, eggplants, tomatoes, apples, peaches, melons, loquats, almonds and figs. Flies lay eggs in the fruits and vegetables; in a few days, those eggs hatch, and maggots render the fruits or vegetables inedible.

"This is a disturbing find because of the extreme risks associated with exotic fruit fly infestations," Charles Bronson, Florida commissioner of the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, said in a Nov. 15 press release. “However, it is a clear indication that our fruit fly detection and monitoring program is working well, and fortunately, we have developed effective emergency response plans that in most cases allow us to quickly eradicate these dangerous pests. The state, along with our federal partner, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is pouring all available resources into this find in Miami-Dade County.”

FDACS and the USDA have launched an intensified trapping program in an 81-square-mile area surrounding the initial find.

“Over 400 traps have been placed and are being serviced on a daily basis for one week,” Denise Feiber, public information director of the department Division of Plant Industry, told The Produce News. “If more peach fruit flies are found in Miami-Dade County, an eradication program may be necessary. It will be conducted the same as certain other Bactrocera species — a bait- insecticide mixture applied to telephone poles. As with all economically important exotic fruit flies, we will use all available resources to ensure detection and, if necessary, eradication.”

California has had numerous outbreaks — most recently this August — of the peach fruit fly since it was first found in that state in 1984, but a breeding population has not established.

This is the third species of exotic fruit fly to be found in Florida this year. In June, a full-scale, three-month eradication program was conducted in Palm Beach County after several Mediterranean fruit flies were trapped there. In August, a pair of Oriental fruit flies was found in a trap in Pinellas County. Trapping has continued since, but no more flies have been found.