Land | Ecotrope

'Dracula' fruit fly crisis averted – for now

Ecotrope | Oct. 11, 2010 12:05 p.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:45 p.m.

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The spotted wing Drosophila didn't do as much crop damage as it could have this year. But experts don't know whether next year will be worse.

The spotted wing Drosophila didn't do as much crop damage as it could have this year. But experts don't know whether next year will be worse.

It looks like Oregon’s $200 million fruit and berry crops have survived this year without a major fruit-fly disaster. But harrowing projections of millions in potential crop damage from the spotted wing Drosophila still hang heavily over growers in Oregon ($31.4 million) and California ($511 million).

An emergency $225,000 from state coffers, expertise from Oregon State University, regular pesticide applications, and a cool, wet spring seem to have kept the invasive fly at bay this summer – the first full growing season since the insect was discovered in Oregon last August.

However, keeping the bugs away has cost growers money, and those who didn’t take action against the flies suffered crop damage. Researchers say it looks like the pests are here to stay - seeing as they thrive on the ubiquitous Himalayan blackberries.

Some details on the troublesome invasive, from The Oregonian:

“The spotted wing is a native of Asia, where Japanese farmers have battled it since 1916. It appeared in California in 2008, quickly migrated to Oregon and Washington and since then has been reported on the East Coast and in Europe. Researchers believe it spreads as infested fruit is shipped around the globe, or carried by travelers.

The fly is unusual because it attacks ripe and ripening fruit, while most fruit flies go after overripe or damaged produce. Its name comes from a distinctive spot at the tip of males’ wings. The female, equipped with a serrated-edge ovipositor, cuts into the fruit skin and deposits one to three eggs. The eggs poke a pair of tiny breathing tubes through the surface and feed on the fruit from the inside as they develop into maggots. Within a few days, healthy fruit collapses.”

Listen to OPB’s coverage of the issue from earlier this year, when scientists warned farmers to prepare for the fly Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba has labeled the “Dracula” fruit fly.

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