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California Department of Food and Agriculture

Media Contacts: Steve Lyle, Director of Public Affairs, (916) 654-0462, Larry Hawkins, USDA, (916) 930-5509

California Department of Food and Agriculture
Release #07-069
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Release follows detection of five wild Medflies in Dixon

SACRAMENTO, September 12, 2007 - On Friday, September 14, the California Department of Food and Agriculture is scheduled to begin aerially releasing sterile Mediterranean fruit flies in a more than 12-square mile region in the Dixon-area, following the detection of five Medflies there.

The sterile Medflies will be brought in from the joint CDFA/USDA rearing facility in Los Alamitos, which prepares hundreds of millions of sterile flies weekly for release over the Los Angeles Basin. For the Dixon project, more than 3 million sterile Medflies will be released weekly. The flies, sterile males, have a proven track record in Southern California of breeding with wild females to help achieve eradication.

The boundaries of the program are:  to the north, Pedrick Rd. between Vaughn Rd. and I-80; to the south, Midway Road; to the west, Batavia Rd. south of I-80 and Schroeder Rd. north of I-80; to the east, Runge Rd. and points directly south to Midway Rd.

“This program is a great example of research and science working to benefit the public and the environment,” said CDFA Secretary A.G. Kawamura. “It wasn’t very long ago that a Medfly infestation meant spray treatments by helicopter. A lot of Californians probably remember that. Now we have a solution that relies largely on biological control. It’s a great example of progress offered by integrated pest management principles.”

The sterile Medfly project in Los Alamitos, called the Preventive Release Program, was introduced in 1996 and has been instrumental in redefining Medfly response in California. It has also dramatically reduced the number of infestations. 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 have been just five infestations statewide. 

In addition to the sterile fly releases in the Dixon-area, CDFA is conducting ground treatments in a 200-meter radius—about one-eighth of a mile—from the locations of the detections. The substance being utilized is the organic compound Naturalyte (active ingredient: spinosad), a naturally occurring extract from bacteria.

The Medfly can infest over 260 types of fruits and vegetables, causing severe impacts on California agricultural exports and backyard gardens. A permanent infestation would result in estimated annual losses of $1.3 to $1.8 billion.

CDFA continues to survey and trap in the Dixon area in preparation for a quarantine to be announced soon.

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California Department of Food and Agriculture Office of Public Affairs
1220 N St., Ste. 214, Sacramento, CA 95814