Agriculture officials hope to rid South Florida of Oriental fruit fly by Labor Day

Oriental fruit fly threatens many of Florida's homegrown fruits


PALMETTO BAY, Fla. – The Oriental fruit fly is a threat to many of the fruits we enjoy that are grown in Florida, like banana, mango and avocado, which is why officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Palmetto Bay office are taking the threat seriously.

State and federal agricultural officials said they are on a mission to stop the Oriental fruit fly.

"The Oriental fruit fly is a devastating agricultural pest," Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said. 

The Oriental fruit fly is a pest that feeds on Florida's key fruits and vegetables.

During a routine trap inspection, USDA workers detected one Oriental fruit fly Friday and two more on Sunday.

"While this is not good news for the Miami-Dade agriculture industry, we want all of our growers and citizens to know we're committed to protecting this vital part of our economy," Putnam said. 

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The agriculture industry is worth about $2 billion in Miami-Dade County.

The agriculture department is now putting insecticide in the part of the Redlands where the flies were found -- between Southwest 194th and 197th avenues, and Southwest 206th and 210th streets.

"The flies are killed when they feed on the bait. The mixture is applied every other week to the upper portion of utility poles and other inanimate objects," Putnam said. 

Although only three male flies were found, officials warn there could be others.

"If there is evidence of a breeding population, which would be the presence of a pregnant or gravid female, that's the type of escalator that we would be looking for," Putnam said. 

Officials want Floridians to not give away any homegrown fruits and vegetables because they might be infested.

"The easiest way for this pest to move is people doing all the work for them," Putnam said. 

The Oriental fruit fly also likes to feed on lychees, officials said.

The pest has been detected several times in Florida since 1964, and each time it has successfully been eradicated. 

"I have already been in touch with USDA and will be working to make sure the federal government is ready to respond if the latest discovery of Oriental fruit flies is declared a significant threat to U.S. agriculture and commerce," U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, said in a statement. 

The agriculture department is hoping to eliminate the pest completely by Labor Day.

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