Florida agriculture officials work to eliminate invasive fruit fly spotted in Pinellas County

Officials in Florida are moving quickly to eliminate an invasive and exotic fruit fly spotted in Pinellas County

People living in St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park are urged to take caution with any fruits or vegetables growing on your property. The goal is to stop the pest before it spreads through the state to our commercially grown crops.

The Oriental Fruit Fly may be tiny, but it can cause massive damage.

"Very invasive pest, one of the world's most destructive fruit flies," explained Bryan Benson, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Deputy Director for the Division of Plant Industry.

The fly can infest more than 430 different fruits, vegetables and nuts. Once its eggs are laid inside, none of those crops can be sold, potentially destroying the agriculture industry here in the Sunshine State.

"We would not be moving any fruits and vegetables out of the state of Florida," Benson said. "Any place that we shipped to would not accept them, and the whole state would be quarantined."

That is why the Florida Department of Agriculture, along with the USDA, is actively working to eradicate the Oriental Fruit Fly. More than 56,000 traps are being monitored across the state.

"Our goal is early detection of invasive pests," said Benson. "And the fruit fly traps give us the best tool to for early detection."

Since May, five Oriental Fruit Flies have been found on local traps. The most recent was a mated female discovered nearly two weeks ago.

"That was our trigger to start treatments and declare the quarantine," Benson said.

Benson said about 500 traps are being monitored locally, thousands of insecticide spot treatments have been put on telephone poles and host trees and a quarantine area has been established in St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park where people are being asked to take precautions.

"What we would ask is that homeowners not move fruit off their property in the quarantine area," said Benson.

Any fruits or vegetables that drop should be double-bagged and thrown out with regular trash.

Experts are optimistic the Oriental Fruit Fly will be eliminated from the area since officials moved quickly, and said the quarantine should be lifted within 90 days.

The Oriental Fruit Fly has been detected several times in Florida since 1964, and each time it has been successfully eradicated. The last detection was in Seminole County in August 2021.