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FDACS/DPI Works to Protect Florida Agriculture Every Day

July 10, 2013

“I remember, too, a summer when peace and war battled for possession of the Creek and for all of Florida. The conflict was grave for us. The enemy was the Mediterranean fruit fly.” ( from Cross Creek)

medfly2

A Mediterranean fruit fly.

In her book, Cross Creek, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings tells her own story of running a homestead in north central Florida in the early 1900s, from managing a 72-acre citrus grove to dealing with runaway farm animals. The challenges that threatened her livelihood are not so different than those faced by Florida farmers and producers today. In this excerpt, Rawlings is describing her experiences and those of her neighbors in dealing with the Mediterranean fruit fly outbreak in 1929.

By that time, the Mediterranean fruit fly had already been on the march for over 100 years. It had spread from its native home in sub-Saharan Africa to the countries of southern Europe and northern Africa surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. It continued to spread to South America, Australia, Hawaii, and was devastating to local agriculture in all of those places.

In Florida, however, the state plant board (predecessor of FDACS/DPI) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture mounted a determined effort to eliminate this pest. The effort achieved a historic first: the Mediterranean fruit fly had been eradicated from an area it had newly colonized.

Medfly1929

Oranges have fallen to the ground due to the 1929 Medfly infestation.

Florida continues to be a leader in the ongoing battle against invasive pest fruit flies  from around the world. We’re fighting some of  the same invasive enemies today that Florida farmers battled in the twentieth century, and the Medfly is still high on the list because Florida’s fruits, nuts, vegetables and flowers are all potential  hosts to the Medfly.

Whether you’re an agricultural producer or a backyard gardener or fruit tree enthusiast, the Medfly can affect your ability grow fruit and vegetables.

Continuing Detection and Control Measures

Today, the FDAC Division of Plant Industry, in cooperation with the USDA, works every day to detect and control the Medfly and other exotic fruit flies. Under the statewide fruit fly detection and monitoring program, our personnel continually monitor 56,000 traps for the presence of exotic fruit flies. In addition to the monitoring program, the Sterile Insect Technique and Mediterranean Fruit Fly Preventive Release Program (PRP), which began in 1999, continues to release millions of sterile Medflies throughout high-risk areas of the state. Sterile males mate with any wild females they may encounter, preventing reproduction.

medflyLarvae

Orange infested with Medfly larvae.

The trapping program has led to the discovery of wild Medflies in this century, most recently near Boca Raton in 2010 and near Pompano beach in 2011.  When the fly was detected in these areas,   residents or businesses in the affected area were prohibited for a time from moving or selling fruits and vegetables outside the regulated area. The Florida Department of Agriculture, in cooperation with USDA, released  sterile Medflies. Restrictions and treatment continued, according to protocol, until three lifecycles of the fly had been completed and no Medflies found.

 

DPI Fruit Fly Helpline: 888-397-1517

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