Flies threatening Florida’s fruit industry have been eradicated

AFP-JIJI

A type of fruit fly that all but shut down south Florida’s $1.6 billion agricultural industry when it was discovered in the state last year has been “successfully eradicated,” authorities said Wednesday.

Officials quarantined 97 square miles (250 sq. km) of farmland after the invasive pest was found in the region.

Authorities not only managed to contain the fly, formally known as Bactrocera dorsalis, but successfully eliminated it within the course of less than six months, before it could do further damage.

“In September, I declared a state of agricultural emergency to combat the Oriental fruit fly infestation in Miami-Dade County,” Florida Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam said in a statement.

“This tiny fly is one of the planet’s most destructive agricultural pests; but together, we have successfully eradicated this invasive pest.”

Oriental fruit flies are common from southern China to northern India, and U.S. officials say they do not know how the fly got here this time.

The insect, which measures less than a centimeter in length, can travel long distances and feeds on 432 different kinds of plants, including mangoes, bananas, tomatoes, figs, watermelon, cucumbers, potatoes, green beans, lemons and lychees.

Authorities will continue to monitor more than 56,000 traps placed throughout the state for any new outbreaks.

The Oriental fruit fly is only one of a long list of invasive species to reach Florida, including giant African snails, Burmese pythons and Argentine tegu lizards.