Fruit flies an apt les­son

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By ROSE CAW­LEY

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.

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