Nelly Bassily | March 23, 2009
Andrew Jessup stands in front of a mesh-covered box containing 200,000 fruit flies. This species of fly, known as Bactrocera invadens, has been attacking African fruit trees since 2003, when it was discovered in Kenya. Mr. Jessup, an entomologist at a UN biotechnology lab in Austria, hopes to stop its spread.He explains that this fruit fly is particularly dangerous because it adapts easily to new climates. The fly has already spread to at least 10 countries across the African continent.
Mature flies lay eggs in fruit. The eggs hatch into destructive larvae that dig tunnels in the fruit. These flies have been especially damaging to mangoes, but also attack fruits such as guava, papaya, tomato, and banana.
The Mozambican, Namibian, and Senegalese fruit markets were hit hard by the fruit fly last year, losing the equivalent of millions of US dollars. Thousands of livelihoods were affected.
Mr. Jessup’s lab is radiating male fruit flies, and then releasing them to breed with female flies. The offspring of radiated flies are sterile. Mr. Jessup says the key will be radiating and releasing enough sterile males.
For more information on Bactrocera invadens, visit the following sites:
-http://www.eppo.org/QUARANTINE/Alert_List/insects/BCTRIN.htmFor more details on how the fly is affecting fruit producers and efforts being made to control the pest, visit:
Fruit producers can take their own action on farms. Fruit that has fallen to the ground should be removed, as rotting fruit offers flies a place to breed. Natural scents such as basil and nutmeg can be used to lure flies away from crops. Neem and vegetable oils, when used appropriately, can kill the pests.