Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has declared an agricultural state of emergency after scientists detected more than 158 oriental fruit flies in South Florida. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services spokeswoman, Jenn Meale says the infestation is a serious concern for the industry.
“The oriental fruit fly is one of the most devastating pests to agriculture. It attacks more than 430 different types of products including avocados, mangoes, dragon fruit and papayas,” Meale says.
Eight five square miles of Florida farm land are under quarantine. And while that might seem like a big step for 158 flies, Meale says that number is significant.
“The department monitors for invasive pests with 56-thousand traps state-wide. A typical find of the oriental fruit fly is in the area of one to two per year. So while 158 may seem low it’s actually an unprecedented amount of oriental fruit flies,” Meale says.
Meale says scientists are using bait to attract and kill the male flies, which they believe will help to reduce the population. They're still seeking answers for how the population spiked. Meanwhile, 20 members of Congress have written a letter to the U.S. Agriculture Secretary asking for help.