“Agricultural nightmare” for California farmers as flies attack crops

Pristine Villarreal

Christiana Green runs four farmers markets across the Coachella Valley with vendors selling all kinds of produce.

“Microgreens, mushrooms, citrus, avocado,” she said, listing the options.

Green calls the farmers at the markets, “family” and says their cash crops are literally under attack.

“It could decimate our farmers markets and the availability of the freshest food available,” she said.

Green is talking about a large infestation of the Oriental Fruit Fly (Bactrocera dorsali) which were recently found in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

“It’s really serious,” said Bodil Cass with the UC riverside Entomology department.  These flies lay their eggs in the fruit that is growing in the trees and the maggots eat the fruit before it’s ready to harvest. So, basically you go to harvest your fruit and it’s full of maggots.”

Cass says these flies are normally found throughout Southern Asia. Adding that they usually get into the United States though fruits and vegetables imported illegally.

Now these little bugs are causing big problems for California crops and the economy.

“The estimated cost to agriculture, if they fly establishes in California, is into the billions of dollars,” Cass said.

In an attempt to eradicate these flies before they establish, quarantines have been placed in areas across Southern California.

“None of the quarantines have been made smaller; they only keep getting bigger,” Green said. “And the time keeps getting pushed back as far as how long.”

For Green and her family of farmers, they’re trying to provide our community with the freshest food available while avoiding these fruit flies.

It is an exponentially terrifying ordeal,” she said.

These fruit flies are a little bigger than a housefly. And if you find your fresh fruit filled with maggots, please report it to the California Department of Food and Agriculture Pest Hotline at 1-800-491-1899.

This story was written and reported by Kai Beech. 

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