State releases billions of sterile flies to prevent infestations
Los Angeles –The California Department of Food and Agriculture reports a five-year test program to stop new infestations of the Mediterranean fruit fly, or Medfly, has been enormously successful.
The Preventive Release Program releases billions of sterilized Mediterranean fruit flies. When wild Medflies are carried into the State, the pests mate with the sterile flies. When the adult flies reach the end of their normal life span, they die without having reproduced, eliminating new wild Medfly populations.
Between 1987 and 1994, an average of 7.5 Medfly infestations were discovered each year in California.
Since the Preventive Release Program began in 1996, there has been just one infestation for the entire five-year period.
“This program is a great example of the value of biological exclusion programs,” said CDFA Secretary William (Bill) J. Lyons, Jr. “We always look first for environmentally friendly, biological choices in dealing with pests. And if we don’t have one initially, we work to develop one.”
Over the life of the Preventive Release Program, nearly 75 billion sterile Medflies have been released from fixed-wing aircraft over more than two-thousand square miles of the Los Angeles Basin.
The Medfly poses a serious economic threat to California. It can attack more than 250 commercial and backyard crops. Since 1975 more than $256 million in state and federal funds have been spent eradicating infestations of the pest, primarily in Southern California and the Bay Area. If the pest were to become permanently established in California, the annual economic impact is estimated at as much as $1.9 billion annually, due to loss of jobs, trade embargoes, increased pesticide use, and the direct crop loss.
California Department of Food and Agriculture Office of Public Affairs
1220 N St., Ste. 214, Sacramento, CA 95814