December 5, 2022

State Department of Agriculture Warns of Exotic Fruit Flies in Pinellas County

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WWSB) – The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has positively identified the presence of Oriental fruit flies in Pinellas County.

The scientific name for fruit flies is Bactrocera dorsalis. A quarantine has been established in the St. Petersburg region prohibiting the movement of fruits, vegetables and nuts without a compliance agreement from the department.

“This detection highlights the importance of our world-class exotic pest surveillance system,” said Dr. Trevor Smith, Plant Industry Division Manager, FDACS.. “Our staff, working closely with our federal partners, has initiated a treatment program to eradicate this destructive pest.

The first discovery of these flies occurred during routine trapping.

Other flies were discovered during expanded trapping activities. State and federal agriculture inspectors monitor more than 56,000 fruit fly traps statewide as an early detection network against introductions of exotic fruit flies that threaten the agricultural well-being of Florida.

The oriental fruit fly has been trapped many times in Florida since 1964 and each time has been successfully eradicated. This species is considered one of the most damaging fruit flies in the world due to its potential economic damage. It attacks more than 436 different fruits, vegetables and nuts, including fig, loquat, mango, orange, peach, plum, sapote, soursop, Suriname cherry, tangerine, tropical almond and guava.

Fruit flies lay their eggs in host fruits and vegetables. Within days, the eggs hatch and the maggots render the fruit or vegetable inedible.

Treatments are ongoing within a 1.5 square mile area around fly detections. Treatments consist of male annihilation technique (MAT), leaf spot treatment, soil drench treatment and fruit removal.

The MAT treatment uses a mixture of baits and insecticides, killing the flies when they feed on the bait. It can be applied weekly to the tops of utility poles, trees and other inanimate objects beyond the normal reach of people and pets. Treatments are applied for a period of two fly life cycles (approximately 60 days) after the date of last detection. The leaf spot treatment uses Spinosad, an insecticide derived from natural soil organisms and commonly used by organic growers, to treat host trees in the area. Soil soaking is used on the ground under host trees whose fruit is known or suspected to be infested with larvae, pupae or a mated female fruit fly. Fruit removal is necessary when larvae are found in infested fruits or vegetables. Fruits from host trees are removed, double bagged and properly disposed so that the flies have no host material to lay eggs.

State and federal agencies will work with local governments and community organizations to keep the public informed. More information can be found on the department’s website at www.FDACS.gov/OFF, or by calling the Division of Plant Industry Helpline at 1-888-397-1517.

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