Don’t let fruit flies turn your garden rotten this summer
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.