1 billion sterile flies released
SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner’s office have eradicated a Mediterranean fruit fly (Medfly) infestation centered near the Panorama City area of Los Angeles County, ending a 127-square-mile quarantine that began Nov. 29, 2016.
A total of 18 flies and eight larval sites were detected.
CDFA uses the release of sterile male Medflies at a minimum rate of 250,000 flies per square mile per week as the mainstay of its eradication measures for this pest. Nearly 1 billion sterile flies were released during this incident. Additionally, properties within 200 meters of the detection sites were treated with an organic formulation of Spinosad, which originates from naturally-occurring bacteria in soil, in order to eliminate any mated females and reduce the density of the population.
To further reduce the population, properties within 100 meters of known or suspected breeding populations were subject to host fruit removal to eliminate eggs and larvae. During this incident, over 343,710 pounds of fruit were removed from over 2,500 properties.
The sterile fly release program has a proven track record of eradication in California. Sterile male flies mate with fertile female flies in the natural environment but produce no offspring. The fly population decreases as the wild flies reach the end of their natural lifespan with no offspring to replace them, ultimately resulting in the eradication of the pest.
The sterile male Medflies are brought to California by the joint CDFA/USDA sterile insect rearing facility in Los Alamitos, which prepares sterile flies for release every day over the Los Angeles basin.
The Medfly is known to target more than 250 types of fruits and vegetables, which could cause significant impacts to California’s agricultural exports and backyard gardens. Damage occurs when the female lays eggs inside the fruit. The eggs hatch into maggots and tunnel through the flesh of the fruit, making it unfit for consumption.
While fruit flies and other pests that threaten California’s crops and natural environment are sometimes detected in agricultural areas, the vast majority are found in urban and suburban communities.
The most common pathway for these pests to enter the state is by “hitchhiking” in fruits and vegetables brought back illegally by travelers as they return from infested regions of the wowrld.
To help protect California’s agricultural and natural resources, CDFA urges travelers to follow the Don’t Pack a Pest program guidelines (www.dontpackapest.com).
The Medfly is found in much of Africa, southern Europe, Middle East, Western Australia, and Central and South America. It is also present in Hawaii.