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Invasive Fruit Fly Raising Berry Growers' Concerns Across Region

A new invasive insect is raising concerns among fruit growers across the Northeast. 

The Spotted Wing Drosophila fruit fly was first discovered in California in 2008 and by the following year it had spread to Florida. In 2011, it was detected in New England. Agriculture officials across the region expect more reports of damage caused by the insect this year. Most at risk are late season soft fruits like raspberries and blueberries, along with blackberries, elderberries, grapes, peaches and cherries. University of Vermont Extension Vegetable and Berry Specialist Vern Grubinger warns the potential for damage on those crops is extremely high.

While most common fruit flies are attracted to over-ripe fruit, Cornell University Berry Extension Support Specialist Cathy Heidenreich explains that’s not the case with this new species.

And that’s why the Spotted Wing Drosophila is a concern.

First found in New York in the Hudson Valley and the Finger Lakes in 2011, it spread across the state in 2012. New York State Integrated Pest Management Fruit Program Coordinator Juliet Carroll says it has projected significant potential losses to commercial fruit growers in New York from the invasive fly.

Juliet Carroll describes the subtle signs a fruit has been infested.

Extension and agricultural experts are educating growers on how to best manage for the Spotted Wing Drosophila. They are mapping the track of the insect and testing prevention and control measures.  Vern Grubinger says growers, including backyard gardeners, must prepare and take action, or risk losing crops.

The invasive fruit fly has no natural predators here.  Native to Asia, including northern Japan, it has adapted to colder northern climates like the U.S. Northeast.