Don’t let fruit flies turn your gar­den rot­ten this sum­mer

The Palm Beach Post - Residences - - Residences - ‘Cash’ Cash­ion

I have talked to an en­to­mol­o­gist I have know for many years at Ar­bico Or­gan­ics (www.ar­bico-or­gan­ics.com) about fruit flies, es­pe­cially the Mediter­ranean fruit fly.

Ar­bico said that my re­cent col­umn about what in­sects to use to battle gar­den pests was good — and that the ben­e­fi­cial in­sects not only do the job but are good for the en­vi­ron­ment.

For the dreaded white­fly, I said to use lady bugs, lacewing preda­tors, and eggs from the lacewings.

Prob­a­bly the most dif­fi­cult pro­ject that you will have in the sum­mer heat is when your fruit is al­most ready and you are look­ing for in­fes­ta­tion of the fruit fly.

Ar­eas of South Florida are un­der quar­an­tine to stop the spread of these tiny winged crea­tures, aka Mediter­ranean fruit flies.

The fe­male fruit fly can lay up to 300 eggs in her 21-to 30-day life­time, and they can dev­as­tate the fruit when in the lar­vae to adult stages. The adult is only 3.5 to 5 mm in size, so if you are like me — and use bi-fo­cals — you will need to look care­fully to even see them, let alone to iden­tify a species on your trees.

Many species of fruit flies are around, so it is al­most im­pos­si­ble to know the slightly bad guys from the re­ally bad guys un­less you are trained to do so.

Af­ter the fe­male lays her eggs, it takes about two weeks for them to hatch out and eat your im­ma­ture fruit, or­ma­ture fruit, here in the swamp. Our tem­per­a­tures now are ideal for the lar­vae stage to emerge — up to around 75-plus de­grees at night.

The fruit fly’s pu­pae de­velop into an adult much like some of our chil­dren do — too weak to leave the nest and fly. If the new adults can’t find food, they will die in about four days. If fruit is avail­able, how­ever, they can go through many gen­er­a­tions in about four months.

Down here in the swamp, they can pro­duce even more gen­er­a­tions. Here in the swamp, our hot sum­mers al­low the fe­male fruit fly to lay three times the num­ber of eggs that she nor­mally would.

Why do I need to worry about the so-called “Med-fly”? Cer­ati­tis cap­i­tata, aka the Med-fly, can hitch a ride on a plane, train, car or boats. It can travel all over the world.

I could list the fruit that the Med-fly could in­fest, but you would soon stop read­ing. Re­mem­ber: We have a crop of cit­rus that is vi­tal for the state’s econ­omy, so it must be pro­tected.

What can you do to fight this pesky in­sect?

1) Call (888) 397-1517 — the Florida Divi­sion of Plant In­dus­try — if you suspect an in­fes­ta­tion.

2) Call (561) 233-1700 — the Palm Beach County Ex­ten­sion Ser­vice.

3) Spray with a rec­om­mended spray.

4) Keep no open re­cep­ta­cles (where any fruit fly can­make its home and eat).

5) Flood un­der your trees pe­ri­od­i­cally; if noth­ing else, it will keep the ants down.

6) Take off suspect fruit and con­tainer­ize it.

7) Put out fly traps to see what species of fruit flies you have.

8) If you live in an area where there is an out­break, don’t give your fruit to some­one who will trans­port it. In fact, don’t give your fruit to any­one; keep it on your premises.

Next week, I’ll write about Spinosad and other re-agents that are used in gar­den­ing and or­chards.

Call Cash at (561) 744-4750 or e-mail him at cleren5@aol.com.

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