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Media Release - 7 February 2018
 
Community taking control against fruit fly pest

Community groups will be out delivering traps again from later this month

The committee overseeing the community-wide effort to counteract fruit fly in Sunraysia says it’s encouraged by the community response to the issue.

The Greater Sunraysia Pest Free Area Industry Development Committee says recent community discussion about fruit fly has been helpful in raising awareness about the campaign to manage the pest.

“The community and media discussion has been great in making people aware that the fruit fly issue has changed for Sunraysia.  It’s not just a matter of preventing the entry of flies to our region anymore,” GSPFA Regional Coordinator Deidre Jaensch said.

Tips for fruit fly control in gardens:

 

Exclusion: Is the best options for gardens using a physical barrier such as insect nets or paper bags over trees (or branches) and vegetables to prevent fruit fly infecting the fruit. These are available from your local agriculture chemical supplier or hardware store, or make use of an old mesh curtain (without holes).

Trapping: There are many traps on the market, or make your own, to kill both male and female flies. They are most effective when used on mass, one per tree or every 10 meters, but they need to be refreshed / replaced every 3 months. Flies in traps will indicate if you need to increase your level of control.

Bait sprays: combine a protein attractant plus an insecticide. They need to be sprayed every 7 days or more frequently after rain. To keep populations down sprays should start 8 weeks before ripening and continue 2 weeks after ripening.

Insecticide control: Insecticides that kill fruit fly are available from local chemical or home garden retailers. Use as directed.

Regular monitoring: You can do this by using traps or by checking the fruit for sting marks on the fruit skin or cut open the fruit.

Destroying infected fruit: Pick fruit and vegetables as they ripen and don’t leave fruit on the tree to over-ripen. Unwanted produce and produce that has fallen or is rotten must be placed in a sealed plastic bag and left for five to seven days in the sun to destroy the larvae. Do not add unwanted fruit to your compost, or worm farm, or place directly into your rubbish bin.

“The warm, humid conditions this season have been ideal for numbers to build up rapidly, not just in Sunraysia but in other parts of Australia. Unfortunately, this means the way we grow fruit and vegetables has to change,” she said.

“We have more than a billion dollars’ worth of horticultural production at stake. We have to change our mindset from expecting government to protect us using eradication measures and border controls like those in South Australia and Tasmania – they’re not feasible strategies for us.

“The harsh reality is that the community is going to have to rally together to drive the efforts going forward with active participation from both backyard and commercial growers.”

Ms Jaensch said while there was research being undertaken around Australia on new technologies, there was always a time delay before breakthroughs became generally available.

“We can’t afford to wait,” she said.

The GSPFA’s area wide efforts have ramped up in recent years with funding from Agriculture Victoria and the collection of charges from the citrus, table grape, and stone fruit industries.

“But we simply don’t have the resources to fund everybody’s pest control program across the 1.7 million hectares that makes up the pest free area,” Ms Jaensch said.

“Awareness and education are an important part, and we’re providing information sessions to community groups and our field staff based in Swan Hill and Mildura have visited over 2,500 properties to discuss strategies with landowners,” she said.

“We have also developed a website to provide information on how to manage fruit fly (www.pestfreearea.com.au) as well as timely reminders on our facebook page.”

Ms Jaensch said while initially it had been a struggle to get people to get interested in the issue, recent media discussion, along with an increase in fly numbers was generating extra traffic through the GSPFA office.

She said community members were making inquiries on how to manage fruit fly, as well as finding out about the tree removal program.

“In January alone, we had tree removal requests from 164 residents and we have contractors scheduled to remove over 580 trees in the coming weeks,” she said.

“Unfortunately, the tree removal contractors have been delayed by work from the storms before Christmas as well as the extreme heat in January, but now with the cooler weather, we’re making good progress.”

Ms Jaensch said it was also exciting to be receiving some success stories from people who are working hard to retain their fruit trees.

“There are residents who are willing to take the hard-line management regime needed to successfully and safely grow fruit in the back yard, and some of them are excited to be enjoying a fruit harvest, perhaps for the first time in four or five years.”

But Ms Jaensch said people should not underestimate the amount of work required.

“Most fruit is attacked by fruit fly well before it starts to ripen. Preventative measures need to start at least six to eight weeks before ripening.

“Some people have told us they’ve been applying weekly bait sprays since spring but missed one spray over Christmas which is when the fruit fly have attacked, which is really disheartening.

"Once fruit fly is in the fruit it is important to destroy it immediately so that it doesn’t spread to other fruit or compound the problem next year.”