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Destructive Fruit Flies Threaten Redland

Pests and Diseases Image Library, Bugwood.org
Parts of Redland under quarantine after oriental fruit flies found

Officials met with farmers in southern Miami-Dade County Wednesday to explain the latest on a potentially devastating invasive fruit fly outbreak.

“It all began Aug. 17, over in the Palmetto Bay municipality.  We found one male Oriental fruit fly," the USDA's Abbie Fox told roughly 100 growers, landscapers and homeowners who had crammed into a small conference room in Homestead.


Credit Kenny Malone / WLRN-Miami Herald News
WLRN-Miami Herald News
About 100 farmers, landscapers and homeowners met in Homestead for updates on the Oriental fruit fly eradication program.

The Oriental fruit fly can use all kinds of plants as  hosts, including important local crops like avocados and tomatoes.

Fox said there haven’t been any more flies found in the Palmetto Bay area, but shortly after that they found one in the Redland area -- and then they found 45 more in a a single trap, which triggered an eradication program.

"The day the [first] fly was found we were on the spot here addressing the needs of the area," Fox said. "So I just want you to know we have a great program in place, we have early detection and that’s why this will be a successful program."

As part of that program,  some growers near the fruit flies may have to use a special crop treatment. However,  growers in a larger quarantine zone -- about 85 square miles -- need special permission to move plants and produce out of the area.

"It always behooves us to kind of think through what does this mean for us today, but also what does it mean for our fields in the future," said Mary Ostlund of Brooks Tropicals.

The fruit fly outbreak comes at tricky time -- in the middle of avocado season. Brooks is one of the largest avocado growers in Florida, and Ostlund says about 30 percent of their local growing area is in the quarantine zone.

But she also says these unpredictable kinds of things are part of the job.

“For example, Hurricane Andrew -- over 75% of our avocado trees went over," Ostlund said. "Almost everything you have to keep an eye on and on top of.”

Authorities at this point do not have plans for mass spraying. They’ve expanded their fly traps and will be monitoring daily.

Below, a map of the treatment and quarantine zones as of Sept. 2. Authorities will be updating information here.