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Get OFF! Be on the alert for this bad bug

Oriental fruit flies detected near Wilton

Oriental fruit fly
The oriental fruit fly can devastate all kinds of crops
if it takes hold in the region. (Photo courtesy Martin
Hauser/ California Department of Food and Agriculture)

Have you seen this nasty little insect? If so, call the county ag office immediately.

Four male oriental fruit flies ( Bactrocera dorsalis ) were discovered in south Sacramento County near Wilton, according to the Sacramento County Agricultural Commissioner. That’s brought out an all-points alert and kicked into action an immediate eradication program while the county searches for more.

The invasive bugs, which eat more than 230 different crops, were first detected July 19, says the county. Dozens of traps have been placed in street trees in concentric circles extending 4.5 miles in each direction from the original finds. If more oriental fruit flies (or OFF) are found, that could trigger a quarantine.

In addition, the bug hunters have put out bait, mostly in street trees 8 to 10 feet off the ground, in a territory stretching 1.5 miles from the original detection. Those traps are baited with male OFF attractant plus a dash of the organic pesticide Spinosad. This combination has been successful in stopping other OFF infestations before they could grow.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture describes the insects this way: "Visible adult flies: somewhat larger than a house fly, the body color is variable but generally bright yellow with a dark "T" shaped marking on the abdomen. The wings are clear. The female has a pointed slender ovipositor to deposit eggs under the skin of host fruit. Visible larvae within infested fruit: legless, white to yellowish-white, and grow to a length of 0.4 (or 2/5) inches inside the host fruit."

Officials suspect that these particular fruit flies may have been accidentally transported to Sacramento County in fruit or vegetables brought illegally to California from OFF-infested regions of the world such as Taiwan and Hawaii.

“Invasive non-native fruit flies are serious pests for California’s agricultural industry and backyard gardens,” said Sacramento County Agricultural Commissioner Chris Flores. “These recent detections on the heels of a recent oriental fruit fly detection in the community of Rancho Murrieta reminds us that we need to remain vigilant in protecting our agricultural and natural resources. When traveling abroad or mailing packages to California, we urge the public not to bring back or ship fruits and vegetables as they are pathways for oriental fruit flies and other invasive species entering our state.”

Among the California crops at risk from OFF include apples and pears, all stone fruits, citrus, dates, avocados, peppers and tomatoes. According to the ag office, damage occurs when the female fruit fly lays her eggs inside the fruit. The eggs hatch into maggots, which tunnel through the flesh of the fruit and make it unfit for consumption.

If you think you’ve seen an oriental fruit fly, contact the Sacramento County Agricultural Commissioner’s office at 916-875-6603 or the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Pest Hotline at 1-800-491-1899.


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Garden Checklist for week of May 19

Temperatures will be a bit higher than normal in the afternoons this week. Take care of chores early in the day – then enjoy the afternoon. It’s time to smell the roses.

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

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