Exotic Fruit Flies Found in Pinellas County, Florida

Randall Weiseman Citrus, Florida, Specialty Crops

TALLAHASSEE — Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson today said two male Oriental fruit flies have been found in a trap in a grapefruit tree in the Pinellas County community of Safety Harbor. Bactrocera dorsalis (Hendel) (Tephritidae) The flies (Bactrocera dorsalis (Hendel) (Tephritidae) were found during routine surveillance activities earlier this month conducted by the department’s Division of Plant Industry. Ernie Neff was able to talk with DPI’s Denise Feiber and has this report.

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“This is a disturbing find because of the extreme risks associated with exotic fruit fly infestations,” Bronson said. “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, are pouring all available resources to address the fruit fly find in Pinellas County.”

The Oriental fruit fly is considered one of the most serious of the world’s fruit fly pests due to its potential economic harm. It attacks more than 100 different fruits, vegetables and nuts, including citrus, apples, guava, mango, tomatoes and peppers. As with other fruit flies, it is not safe to rule out many plants as potential hosts. The fruit flies lay their eggs in the fruits and vegetables. In a few weeks, the larvae or maggots hatch and render the fruits or vegetables inedible.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has launched an intensified trapping program in an 81-square-mile area surrounding the fruit fly find in Pinellas County until mid-December. If any more flies are found the trapping will continue and an insecticide will be applied to telephone poles along with a substance that attracts the flies. As of this date, no additional flies have been found.

Twenty-four hours prior to the application of any pesticides or other treatment activities, public notification and treatment area maps will be published in local newspapers. Additional public outreach activities will be conducted as more information becomes available.

Agricultural officials are attempting to determine the source of the fruit that carried these flies into Florida. Report any information on the possible origin of these flies to the USDA’s anti-smuggling hotline at 1-800-877-3835.

State and federal agencies will work with local governments to keep the public involved and to provide updated and accurate information. Visit the Department’s web site at www.doacs.state.fl.us/pi/enpp/ento/exoticfruitflies.html for maps of the infested areas and detailed information on the Oriental fruit fly, or call the toll-free help line at 1-888-397-1517.