By Vicky Boyd
Just about a year ago, the spotted wing drosophila fruit fly was confirmed in Florida.
Although the new pest didn't cause serious problems last year, that may not be the case this season, says Jim Price, a University of Florida entomologist based at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm.
"We have a big task in front of us to work with industry and to come up with pesticides that are available or in development," says Price, who's with the university's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. "Bottom line—this pest isn't leaving. We have to face it.
"We can manage it and get through this year, and it will not be devastating."
He made his comments before a packed audience at the recent Florida Ag Expo in Balm. Shortly after his presentation, he flew to Portland, Ore., to meet with other entomologists to discuss spotted wing drosophila.
Key to getting the upper hand on this pest is field sanitation, Price says.
The spotted wing drosophila, a native of Japan, was first confirmed in the United States in California in 2008.
Since then, it has been confirmed in Oregon, Utah, Washington state, Michigan, Louisiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana and British Columbia.
In California, it severely damaged cherries in some cases and challenged caneberry growers. To a lesser extent, it infested strawberries.
In Oregon it also attacked stone fruit and grapes.
And there's no reason to suspect that it won't attack blueberries and strawberries, as well as stone fruit, in Florida, Price says.
He says he doubts it will attack round tomatoes. But he says it isn't known whether they'll cause problems in cherry or grape tomatoes.
Fruit fly identification
The spotted wing drosophila is a fruit fly, but it belongs to a different genus than the Mediterranean fruit fly, Caribbean fruit fly and Oriental fruit fly.
Unlike most fruit flies that favor rotting fruit on which to lay eggs, the adult spotted wing prefers fruit just reaching maturity.
The female has a serrated ovipositor that she inserts into the fruit to lay eggs, providing an entry way for fruit rot pathogens.
When the larvae hatch, they feed on the fruit flesh, rendering it unmarketable.
Japanese literature suggests the spotted wing drosophila may produce 10 to 16 generations per year in Florida.