UF/IFAS Researchers Focus In On New Pest

Since being found in Florida for the first time in August 2009 after already making its presence known in the western states of California and Washington, the spotted wing drosophila has spread to 23 counties in South Florida. Jim Price an associate professor of entomology with UF/IFAS says the fruit fly will almost certainly move quickly from Florida to other southeastern states. Besides blueberries and strawberries, the fly could harm other soft-skinned fruit crops such as peaches, blackberries and raspberries.

The spotted wing drosophila is unlike many fruit flies in that it can burrow into soft-skinned fruit to lay eggs. Unlike the Mediterranean fruit fly — which recently reappeared in Florida after more than a decade — it cannot burrow into thicker-skinned fruit, such as citrus.

Though this past winter’s unusually cold weather slowed the pest’s progress somewhat in the state, Price says the fly has made the jump from strawberry crops to blueberries in Hillsborough County. Price says, while the spotted wing drosophila is likely to give Florida berry growers headaches, at least they should be of the manageable variety. Some pesticides can be effectively used to control the fly.

Tune in here to Growing Produce TV’s Fruit Insect Channel to learn more about spotted wing drosophila.

According to Price, an effective, long-term solution will likely entail having growers either remove from their fields every berry that goes bad or remove bad fruit and place it between plant beds. Not having to remove bad berries from the fields entirely would be the easier solution, but researchers first need to know if the fly can complete its life cycle in bad fruit simply placed between beds. If that is the case, removing bad fruit completely from the field will be the only favorable option.

IFAS researchers now have established spotted wing drosophila colonies in the lab, however, and soon will be able to conduct those studies.

Source: UF/IFAS news item

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