Fol­low these help­ful steps to thwart the tiny fruit fly that can turn your berries into mush.

Country Gardens - - Contents -

A tiny fruit fly, the Spot­ted-wing Drosophila, can wreak havoc on your rasp­ber­ries and other soft fruits at har­vest time. We’ll teach you how to thwart its spread, start­ing with a sim­ple, home­made trap.

Flock­ing to the feast

of lus­cious ripe rasp­ber­ries, drip­ping like jew­els from the canes, is no longer re­served just for the gar­dener who grew them. En­ter the Spot­ted-wing Drosophila (SWD), a rel­a­tively new in­vader of the in­sid­i­ous sort that at­tacks fruit from the inside out. How? The tiny fruit fly, un­like its pesky cousin that lays its eggs on dam­aged or over­ripe fruit, lays its eggs in har­vest-ready fruit. The eggs hatch as early as 12 hours later with rav­en­ous lar­vae gob­bling their way out to start an­other life cy­cle, leav­ing a cratered, bleed­ing berry be­hind.

First no­ticed in 2008, SWD has since spread through­out the coun­try in­fest­ing late-sum­mer, soft-fleshed fruits— rasp­ber­ries be­ing their fa­vorite vic­tim.

Fol­low our ef­fec­tive strat­egy to com­bat the in­sects that leave de­formed or col­lapsed berries from oth­er­wise-healthy plants: First, build a sim­ple trap to catch and ver­ify that it is SWD, then fol­low through with or­ganic or tra­di­tional meth­ods to thwart this pil­lag­ing pest.


Is your fruit in­fested with SWD? If rasp­berry canes and leaves are flour­ish­ing yet berries seem mushy, moldy, or crawl­ing with white lar­vae, you’ll need to con­firm that SWD is the cul­prit. Start by trap­ping and iden­ti­fy­ing the pest. Al­though you can pur­chase spe­cial traps, a home­made one also works well. Our Big Red Trap is made of ev­ery­day ma­te­ri­als and is very ef­fec­tive in lur­ing the tiny in­sect to its wa­tery demise with a sim­ple vine­gar and soap so­lu­tion.

Hang the Big Red Traps, one trap about every 6 feet, from poles nes­tled mid-height within the berry branches. Ini­tially check the trap daily to col­lect and iden­tify this spot­ted-wing pest, as its name sug­gests, by the male’s sin­gle black spot on the tip of each wing. Both the male and fe­male have dis­tinct red eyes and are about 2–3 mil­lime­ters long.

If SWD is in res­i­dence, con­tinue trap­ping and mon­i­tor­ing, clean­ing out the trap once a week and re­fresh­ing the bait.


While the Big Red Trap is use­ful for iden­ti­fy­ing, mon­i­tor­ing, and rid­ding your gar­den of some SWD, it isn’t the end-all so­lu­tion to to­tally elim­i­nat­ing the pest. To fur­ther pro­tect your har­vest, some el­bow grease is in or­der.

Mow fall-bear­ing rasp­ber­ries down to the ground af­ter frost, and clear the bed of de­bris where SWD love to hi­ber­nate. When canes be­gin to grow in spring, prune to no more than four or five healthy canes per lin­ear foot, as this al­lows for op­ti­mum air and sun­light to cir­cu­late through the branches. Trel­lis­ing also gives canes a lift and makes daily “clean” pick­ing so much easier, and pa­trolling for just-ripe berries will keep you one step ahead of SWD.

If all else fails, or­ganic in­sec­ti­cides are avail­able. Spinosad, made from bac­te­ria found in soil, has been found to be most ef­fec­tive in con­trol­ling SWD. (As with all in­sec­ti­cides, read and fol­low man­u­fac­tur­ers’ di­rec­tions care­fully.)


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