Fruit fly infestation loses its buzz

Oriental fruit fly

A quarantine of Morgan Hill crops remains unnecessary as Santa Clara County officials have not found another Oriental fruit fly in seven days.

Because it has now been a full week since the last invasive fly was discovered, officials will now be checking traps set up to capture and count the insects once a week rather than daily, according to county agriculture commissioner Kevin O’Day.

Oriental fruit flies found in Morgan Hill total four. The flies were found last week near the intersection of Monterey Road and Tennant Avenue. The last fly – a male – was found last Thursday.

The flies can decimate entire crops of fruits and vegetables as the females can burrow into the fruit, lay eggs and destroy the fresh produce headed to the fresh market, authorities said.

If two more flies are found, or if one pregnant female fly or one larva are discovered within the next two life cycles – about two months or so – the county would be required to quarantine all fruits and vegetables grown in the affected area, O’Day said last week.

He the lack of a new fly in seven days is “good news,” he said.

The Morgan Hill agricultural community would be heavily impacted by a quarantine, especially at this time of year when many farmers are preparing to harvest their produce and sell them to fresh-market wholesalers outside the area, according to authorities.

The county and state department of agriculture declared an infestation of the Oriental fruit fly last week, when the first bug was found.

Oriental fruit flies are not native to this area. They are commonly found in Hawaii, the Philippines and parts of southern Asia, according to the county agriculture department’s website.

The flies found in Morgan Hill likely made their way there accidentally through an unauthorized shipment of fruit, human travelers carrying undeclared produce in their luggage from one of the fly’s normal areas, or a “care package” shipped to Morgan Hill from one of those areas, authorities said.

The last Oriental fruit fly infestation in Santa Clara County was in Milpitas in 2010, and was quickly squashed, O’Day said.

In response to the infestation, state agriculture authorities set up bait stations with a thick gelatinous substance containing female insect pheromones and pesticides that attracts the male fruit fly. That substance has been placed high in the air on trees along streets in the area and telephone poles within a 16-mile radius surrounding Tennant Avenue and Monterey Road, authorities said.

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