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Invasive Fruit Fly Threatens Maine Blueberry Crops
01/09/2012 02:30 PM ET  

UMaine Cooperative Extension officials say the Asian Drosophila suzukii fruit fly, which could devastate the state's blueberry crop, has been found in five monitoring locations in Maine.

University of Maine researchers say an invasive fruit fly that poses a threat to the state's blueberry crop has been found in five locations in Maine.

The UMaine Cooperative Extension services says the Asian Drosophila suzukii fruit fly is also a threat to strawberry, raspberry and other soft-skinned fruit crops, and possibly vegetable crops as well.

"Our concern is if you get the spotted wing drosophila in low-bush blueberries -- 50,000 acres -- it would be disastrous, just devastating to our current Integrated Pest Management program and the crop," says Jim Dill, a pest management specialist with the extension service. "And it's a question of when."

Maine's blueberry harvest this year topped 80 million pounds and was valued at about $190 million. Dill and other researchers have been monitoring fruit fly traps around the state for the pest, which originated in Asia and has spread from California to New England over the past four years.

The fly was found in a tomato greenhouse in Berwick, raspberries in Limington, Newcastle and Monmouth and strawberries in Farmington, Dill says. It also likely infested some high-bush blueberries in Clinton, though that hasn't been confirmed.

State officials say the pest is especially destructive because it can attack unripe, as well as ripe, fruit. It can be controlled with pesticides, but Dill says applications are expensive and must be done frequently.


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