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Fruit Flies Damaging Long Island Berry Crops, Could Cause Price Hike

AQUEBOGUE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- A tiny bug is wreaking havoc at farms on Long Island's North Fork.

As CBS 2's Jennifer McLogan reported, a fruit fly called the Spotted Wing Drosophila has been infesting sweet berries as they grow, ruining the crops.

Consumers in the New York area are now on alert after the Asian fruit fly that first caused millions of dollars in damage to the cherry harvest in the West has made its way east via wind currents.

"This is the first place it's been found in the state of New York," entomologist Daniel Gilrein with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County told McLogan. "Right in Suffolk has moved with lightning speed."

GIlrein and his colleagues are studying the tiny fruit fly and said it is now a real concern for berry growers.

The fruit fly has been infesting the late-season crop of raspberries, blueberries, elderberries and blackberries. It lays its eggs in emerging fruit. Its larvae develop inside the berry, eating it as they mature. The fruit never even gets a chance to ripen, McLogan reported.

"There will be a financial impact on both industry and consumers. It's going to cost more," Joseph Gergela with the Long Island Farm Bureau told McLogan. "Just this small fruit fly can do tremendous damage."

The Long Island Farm Bureau is carefully monitoring the Asian fruit fly's favored produce. So far, it has shown little interest in apples, nectarines, peaches or even grapes, McLogan reported.

Researchers and scientists nationwide are teaming up to discover the best way to lure and trap the Asian fruit fly using non-toxic bait such as apple cider vinegar, yeast and sugar.

Industry analysts predict the prices of late-season berries could jump as much as $1 at farm stands and grocery stores.

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