RANCHO CORDOVA — The discovery of nine oriental fruit flies in one Northern California city has the state and local authorities in eradication mode.
The non-native insects are found in Asia, Hawaii and Africa — and now Rancho Cordova in Sacramento County.
"It could potentially be things that are brought back with people when they've gone out of the country on trips," said Kevin Martyn, Sacramento County's deputy agricultural commissioner. "They wanted to bring back a souvenir but didn't realize it had hitchhikers in it."
Oriental fruit flies are serious pests that eat more than 230 different fruits and vegetables — things like grapes, stone fruits, citrus, dates, avocados, tomatoes and peppers.
"Larvae get inside fruits and vegetables, and is relatively undetectable from the outside," Martyn said. "So that makes it very hard to determine where it is."
They have only been found in urban areas and authorities want to keep it that way. That's why they're instating a quarantine spanning 81 square miles, surveying and setting out traps. For every new fruit fly located within one square mile, 100 more traps are set out.
The traps have an attractant for males that stuns them. They drop on glue inside and, in essence, stop the reproductive cycle.
The county Department of Agriculture says it will continue to test and trap for three life cycles. The amount of time depends on the daily day temperature. The hotter it is, the faster the fly matures. So winter may mean a longer quarantine period, which is some good news.
"We don't expect it will get worse before it gets better," Martyn said.
It can't happen fast enough, ag industry sources say. Pesticides and protocols to protect against the invasive species can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
If farmers want to apply a preventative treatment before a quarantine goes into effect in their area, contact the Sacramento County Department of Agriculture.
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