What’s in a name? Peach fruit fly find impacts much more than peaches.

November 17, 2010

“What’s in a name, That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet?”
Juliet, Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Juliet tries to convey the idea that a name does not necessarily provide an accurate meaning. With the discovery of a peach fruit fly in Miami-Dade County earlier this month, some Floridians might be wondering what could be causing the concern over the fly. Florida might not be as well known for peach production as its neighbor to the north, Georgia, but the peach fruit fly poses a serious risk to Florida’s environment and agriculture industry. Don’t let the name fool you. The peach fruit fly has an appetite for more than just peaches.

Peach Fruit Fly

A peach fruit fly, Bactrocera zonata, was found in a trap in a guava tree in Miami-Dade County by a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector during routine surveillance activities earlier this month, marking the first Florida find for this particular species of fruit fly. The peach fruit fly is considered one of world’s most serious fruit fly pests due to its potential economic harm. It attacks many different fruits, vegetables and nuts, including mango, guava, citrus, eggplant, tomato, apple, peach, melon, loquat, almond and fig. The fruit flies lay their eggs in the fruits and vegetables, and in a few days, the eggs hatch and maggots render the fruits or vegetables inedible.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, along with its federal counterpart, has launched an intensified trapping program in an 79-square-mile area surrounding the fruit fly find. If more flies are found, trapping will continue, and an insecticide may be applied to telephone poles along with a substance that attracts the flies. The public will be notified 24 hours prior to the application of any insecticides or other treatment activities, and if necessary, additional outreach activities will be conducted to provide all relevant information.

Agricultural officials are attempting to determine the source of the fruit that carried this fly into Florida. If you have any information on the possible origin of this fly, please report it to the USDA’s anti-smuggling hotline at 1-800-877-3835.

The peach fruit fly marks the third exotic fruit fly find in Florida this year. In June, Mediterranean fruit flies were trapped in Palm Beach County, and a full-scale, three-month eradication program was conducted—one of the shortest in U.S. history. In August, two Oriental fruit flies were found in a trap in Pinellas County, where trapping continues and no additional flies have been found. This year alone, about $7 million has been spent on the Palm Beach and Pinellas county programs. However, $7 million is a much lower figure than would be associated with the potential economic harm caused by untreated fruit fly infestations.

“What these multiple incursions of exotic fruit flies into Florida are telling us is that even with our successful statewide fruit fly detection and monitoring efforts and preventative sterile fly release program, harmful pests and diseases are still being brought into the state by the traveling public,” said Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles Bronson. “We must continue to raise public awareness about the risks associated with moved agricultural products without proper certification. We’re asking the public to refrain from bringing any plant material in from another country to reduce the incidence of invasive pests.”

State and federal agencies will work with local governments to keep the public involved and to provide updated information. More information can be found on the department’s website, including maps of the detection area and detailed information on the peach fruit fly.

How can you help keep the story of Florida agriculture from becoming a tragedy like Romeo and Juliet? When you travel, don’t pack a pest!

Need more info? Call our toll-free helpline at 888-397-1517 or e-mail us at dpi-blog@doacs.state.fl.us.

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