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How USDA Scientists are Winning the Battle Against Invasive Fruit Flies

Posted by Cecilia Sequeira, Public Affairs Specialist, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in Animals Research and Science
Apr 27, 2023
Exotic fruit flies on an orange

Invasive fruit flies, such as the Oriental, Mexican, Mediterranean, and European cherry fruit fly, pose threats to many U.S. commercial and homegrown crops. If established, these flies could cause significant economic losses, requiring costly treatments to protect fruits and vegetables and reducing the marketability of infested fruit both locally and abroad. What’s at stake? The market value of invasive fruit fly-host commodities totaled approximately $11.7 billion in the United States in 2022. Approximately $8.3 billion of that was from California and $2.9 billion from Florida.

Fortunately, scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) have found several tools that are effective in preventing fruit fly populations from becoming established. APHIS uses a mating disruption technology – or male annihilation technique (MAT) - to kill fruit fly species without harming other insects. A MAT trap combines a fruit fly male attractant with an insecticide. The mixture lures and kills the invasive flies without attracting beneficial insects. This eco-friendly technique is also more cost-effective than using traditional insecticides.

In Mediterranean or Mexican fruit fly – at-risk areas, APHIS can deploy another powerful tool - sterile insect technique. APHIS rears and releases billions of male sterile fruit flies that produce no offspring after mating. When used with other pest management strategies, these tools, which disrupt reproduction, can help eradicate invasive fruit fly populations.

“Using sterile insect and MAT, we can contain fruit fly outbreaks faster, while reducing pest management costs, insecticide use, and crop losses,” said Richard Johnson, National Policy Manager for invasive fruit flies. “These science-based technologies help growers who depend on bountiful harvests every year.”

Want to learn more about the technologies APHIS uses to protect American resources from invasive pests? Read Plant Protection Today or follow @USDA_APHIS on social media to keep up with the latest science in exotic plant pest management.

A scientist removes a Mediterranean fruit fly feeding layer wearing gloves and a mask at an insect rearing facility
Category/Topic: Animals Research and Science