Fruit flies an apt lesson
THE questions flew when mayor Len Brown visited Grey Lynn school in a bid to spread the word on the fruit fly.
‘‘Can you eat the fruit off trees that have been baited?’’
‘‘What would happen if you ate fruit that had fruit fly larvae in it?’’
Questions like that from kids as young as 5 years old had Ministry of Primary Industries plant and environment response manager Dr Edwin Massey smiling.
‘‘I didn’t get asked some of those questions by councillors,’’ he says. ‘‘They were spot on.’’
The kids were also able to get an up-close look at the fruit fly specimen and larvae of the little insect that’s been disrupting their school and suburb.
Massey says the community is handling the situation well and is doing everything right.
‘‘Many of our staff are on first-name basis with residents. The message is out there and has been well received.’’
So far 14 fruit flies have been found and a 1.5km quarantine area remains in place. MPI specialist adviser Howard Hamilton says that will be the case for some time.
‘‘Even a few cold days like we’ve had following the cyclone slow the fly’s life cycle down,’’ he says.
The protocols are expected to stay in place for at least the next two months, he says.
The pest, if it became established here, would represent a major threat to New Zealand’s $2.6 billion horticultural export trade.
Principal Bill Barker says the students have been studying up on the topic and teachers are using it as a learning opportunity.
‘‘Globalisation is something these kids really understand and this has been an example of it affecting the New Zealand ecosystem in their backyard,’’ he says.
‘‘By educating them about it they realise the importance of being careful and following the protocols.’’
Mayor Len Brown says it is vital that the kids receive the message that fruit needs to be dumped in the provided bins.
‘‘We’ve learnt that parents tend to listen to their kids especially when it comes to concerns around the environment.’’
And one of the many answers the kids will be trundling off home with this time is that it’s probably not a good idea to eat the sprayed fruit. The substance the trees are squirted with contains Fipronil, a broad spectrum insecticide.
‘‘It’s commonly found in household flea treatments and while it is completely safe at the concentrations we are using it at, it is best to take a precautionary approach,’’ Massey says.
Little expert: Rory Hannah, 6, holds up one of the fruit fly traps that litter Grey Lynn.