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Throwback Thursday: Medfly Campaign, 1929

June 25, 2015

Remembering Florida’s first major Mediterranean fruit fly eradication program

This week, Dr. Tyson Emery, Bureau Chief, Plant and Apiary Inspection, Division of Plant Industry, reviewed the Plant Industry Fruit Fly Program for the employees of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The fruit fly detection and control program is a model for other states. In his presentation, Dr. Emery reviewed the long history of the program, which began when that is now the Division of Plant Industry was known as the State Plant Board.

During his presentation, Dr. Emery reviewed the history of fruit fly eradication programs in Florida. The state’s first Medfly eradication program began in 1929 after a state nursery inspector found maggots in grapefruit near Orlando. Shortly afterward, tell-tale fruit drop was observed in an Orlando grapefruit grove. The pest was positively  identified as Mediterranean fruit fly.

State and federal agencies threw all available forces into the eradication work. Where flies were detected, host plants were destroyed, infested areas were sprayed and fruit was stripped from infested groves and destroyed.

SprayTruck1920s

Spray trucks were used in 1929 Medfly eradication.

A quarantine was imposed to stop the movement of material from infested areas. National Guardsmen enforced the quarantine at checkpoints on major highways. Movement of host fruits and vegetables from Florida in to 18 Southern and Western states was restricted.

By the time the Medfly was finally declared eradicated in 1930, the program had cost about $7.5 million. Florida would be Medfly-free for the next quarter century, but officials would institute other Medfly eradication programs in the 1950s and 1990s.

Today, as Dr. Emery explained in his presentation, the FDACS Division of Plant Industry remains ever-vigilant. Our inspectors and those from USDA monitor fly traps on a regular basis and follow a strict protocol when suspect flies are found.

We’ll recall later eradication programs on future TBTs.

-30-

 

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