California is under attack.
Agriculture officials sounded that alarm on Friday after two Queensland fruit flies were found in Ventura County, marking at least the third discovery of invasive and destructive fruit flies in the Los Angeles area in recent months.
A 76 square mile area was placed under quarantine on Oct. 23 after the Queensland flies were found in a residential area of Thousand Oaks, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
It is the first official quarantine in North America due to the pest which, as the name implies, is native to Queensland, Australia.
Residents inside the quarantine zone are urged to not move fruits or vegetables from their properties and to dispose of any green waste by double-bagging in plastic bags before placing it in the trash.
“California is facing an agricultural crisis,” Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner Korrine Bell said at a news briefing Friday. “There’s been an unprecedented outbreak of fruit flies throughout the state.”
Experts say fruit flies have the potential to decimate California’s agriculture industry. The females lay eggs in fruits and vegetables which hatch as maggots and tunnel through crops, leaving them inedible.
“What’s at stake if this fruit fly continues to spread is over $2 billion in economic activity, agri-tourism, 25,000 jobs … and 6,000 indirect jobs,” warned Maureen McGuire, CEO of the Ventura County Farm Bureau.
In July, a large section of the Santa Clarita Valley was placed under quarantine after more than 20 invasive Tau fruit flies were detected in the Stevenson Ranch area.
In the city of Los Angeles, agriculture officials plan to drop over two million sterile male Mediterranean fruit flies within a 69-square-mile radius after the pests were found at a home in Leimert Park.
The males mate with females who fail to produce viable offspring in what’s known as a Preventative Release Program (PRP). Over time, this wipes out fruit fly the population – at least that’s the hope.
In Ventura County, wherever Queensland fruit flies are detected, vegetables and fruits will be removed and plants will be treated with an organic pesticide called Spinosad GF-120 Naturalyte, officials said
In the short term, they hope residents will take the warning seriously and do their part.
“Fruit flies don’t discriminate. They’ll damage and destroy commercial agriculture, the fruits and vegetables that we purchase it our grocery stores and farmers markets just as easily as it will destroy your backyard gardens and fruit trees,” Bell said.
Residents with questions about the quarantines can call CDFA’s Pest Hotline at 1-800-491-1899.