Fruit Flies Back in OC to Bedevil Jerry Brown

The bane of Jerry Brown's first go-round as governor is back.

It's a teeny-weeny, eensy-weensy fruit fly. Actually, it's two of them, found in Westminster earlier this month. They join two more trapped in the Anaheim-Yorba Linda area near the end of June and start of July.

How can four fruit flies bedevil Brown, who with the force of his backhand can swat winged-political-hot-potatoes away?

Let us travel back to the very early 1980s, when the Mediterranean fruit fly that first showed up around 1975 had infested the agricultural heartland of California's interior valleys. In 1981, Gov. Brown 1.0 made the controversial decision to forgo aerial spraying against the nasty little buggers.

Brown thus ignored the pleas of the powerful agricultural industry and the advice of federal regulators. He instead acknowledged the pleas of the burgeoning environmental movement and the advice of a UC Berkeley entomologist who assured him the flies would die off come winter.

Well, they didn't, and after several states and nations threatened quarantines on California produce, Brown relented and allowed the spraying. By then, the mighty Medfly had made Brown appear weak. And his foes capitalized on the issue to pile on the Governor Moonbeam rep, noting that during his administration he championed Taoist "creative inaction," which concerns choosing the right time to act. Many blame the Medfly/Moonbeam rep with costing Brown the 1982 U.S. Senate election.

And so, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) of Gov. Brown 2.0 is busily treating areas of Westminster, Anaheim and Yorba Linda to fight not the Medfly but the Oriental fruit fly (OFF), which infest 230 different fruits, vegetables and plants. Females lay eggs that hatch into maggots that tunnel into fruit, making it unfit for consumption.

This time, treatment involves use of a male attractant to draw male flies who will eat the stuff and die. This Brown administration is not shy about letting the public know that pesticides are involved.

"As Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, I have decided, based upon the likely environmental and economic damage which could be inflicted by an established infestation of the OFF, that under my statutory authority, it is incumbent on me to attempt to eradicate the OFF and its life stages from California," reads a statement from CDFA secretary Karen Ross.

The four OFF males discovered in OC this summer justify the creation of infestation zones, according to Ross. This is actually the fourth time the CDFA has sought to eradicate the OFF from Westminster. For maps of treatment areas, go to

Ross estimates California crop loss could range from $44 million to $176 million if the flies become established in the Golden State. And were she not to act quickly, she fears widespread damage would occur and "the need for pesticide use would increase as well as the need to enforce quarantine restrictions."

Sounds like someone's learned a thing or three (or four) since Brown 1.0.

Her complete statement follows on the next page . . .


Treatment of the Oriental fruit fly primarily relies upon a process known as "male attractant," in which workers squirt a small patch of fly attractant mixed with a very small dose of pesticide approximately 8-10 feet off the ground to light poles, street trees and similar surfaces.   Male flies are attracted to the mixture and die after consuming it.

Between August 2 and August 4, 2011, two wild male oriental fruit flies (OFF) were trapped in the cities of Santa Ana and Westminster in Orange County. These OFF detections are approximately 2.5 miles apart and within one life cycle. Based on the evidence presented to me by my staff, outside experts familiar with the fly, and the trapping data, I have determined that an established infestation of OFF exists.

The OFF, Bactrocera (=Dacus) dorsalis Hendel, is an exotic insect which has a long history of being a serious pest of tropical and subtropical fruits in Southwest Asia and most of the Pacific Islands. Following introduction into the Hawaiian Islands in the 1940's, this fly multiplied rapidly, and currently is known to infest more than 125 different host fruits in the state of Hawaii. Worldwide, over 230 different kinds of fruits and vegetables are attacked. The OFF is one of the most serious pests of agriculture in Hawaii, India, Burma, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indochina, the Philippines, Taiwan, Ryukyu Islands, and Micronesia. Important California crops which would be infested include pome and stone fruits, citrus, dates, avocados, and certain vegetables, particularly tomatoes and peppers. Damage occurs when the female lays eggs in the fruit. These eggs hatch into larvae, or maggots, which tunnel through the flesh of the fruit, making it unfit for consumption. The first California eradication project occurred in San Diego in 1974, and since that time, numerous major infestations have been delimited and successfully eradicated.

As Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), I have decided, based upon the likely environmental and economic damage which could be inflicted by an established infestation of the OFF, that under my statutory authority, it is incumbent on me to attempt to eradicate the OFF and its life stages from California. Should OFF become established in California, crop loss estimates are in the range of $44 million to $176 million. Additionally, the need for pesticide use would increase as well as the need to enforce quarantine restrictions. By comparison, where the OFF is established in Hawaii, farmers are driven to either near-weekly spraying of insecticides or ultimately abandoning crop production altogether. Industry experts estimate that exotic fruit flies are costing Hawaii more than $300 million each year in lost markets for locally grown produce. This loss does not include lost export markets. If the OFF became established in California, the state would face detrimental quarantine requirements directed against host commodities by the United States Department of Agriculture and our international trade partners.

My duty to act, and this decision, is based upon authority set forth in Sections 24.5, 401.5, 403, 407, 408, 5401-5405, and 5761-5764 of the Food and Agricultural Code authorizing and mandating the Secretary: to thoroughly investigate the existence; to determine the probability of the spread of a pest; to adopt regulations (Title 3 of the California Code of Regulations, Section 3591.2) as are reasonably necessary to carry out the provisions of this code; to abate the pest from the established eradication area; and, to prevent further economic damage. The enclosed project work plan describes the Department's actions that are necessary to mitigate the spread of this pest.

This decision to proceed with an eradication program is based upon a realistic evaluation that it may be possible to eradicate the OFF using currently available technology. Treatment needs and the environmental conditions are outlined in the attached work plan.

In making this decision, CDFA has evaluated possible eradication methods. The following is a list of the options that I have considered for the eradication of this OFF infestation: 1) mechanical controls; 2) biological controls; 3) mass trapping; 4) cultural controls; 5) foliar application of a pesticide by ground; and 6) male attractant treatment using bait stations, in accordance with integrated pest management principles.

Based upon input from outside experts familiar with the OFF and my professional staff, I have concluded that there are no biological or cultural controls that are effective to eradicate the OFF so that CDFA can meet its statutory obligations. CDFA will utilize mechanical control when larvae are detected in host fruit. In this situation, the host fruit will be removed and disposed of under regulatory compliance. To eradicate the adult OFF, I am ordering that male attractant treatments consisting of methyl eugenol, naled, and a thickener be applied to the eradication area to eliminate this infestation. If additional OFF or larvae are detected, spinosad bait spray treatments may be applied using ground based equipment to host trees within a 200 meter radius of the detection site. A description of the options is contained in the attached work plan. Historical data indicates that it is possible to eradicate this infestation due to the size of the area that is infested and number of OFFs detected.

CDFA has prepared and certified a Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) entitled "The Exotic Fruit Fly Eradication Program Utilizing Male Annihilation and Allied Methods," that is implemented as per the operations described above. This FEIR addresses the eradication of exotic fruit fly pests at the program level and provides guidance for the conduct of future emergency actions against these pests. It identifies feasible alternatives and feasible mitigation measures to be implemented in individual exotic fruit fly pest eradication emergencies. I have incorporated the mitigation measures and integrated pest management techniques as described in the FEIR. In accordance with Section 21105 of the Public Resources Code, this FEIR has been filed with the appropriate local planning agency of all affected cities and counties. I detected no local condition which would justify or necessitate preparation of a site specific plan.

Eradication Plan

The eradication area includes those portions of Orange County which fall within an approximate nine square mile area around each property on which an adult fly has been trapped or on which another life stage of the insect is found to be present. A map of the detection sites with eradication boundaries and the proposed eradication work plan are attached. In summary form, the work plan will contain the following elements:

a. Delimitation. Two types of traps will be placed throughout the project area to delimit the infestation and to monitor post-treatment fly populations. Jackson traps and McPhail traps will each be placed at a density of 25 per square mile in the core areas, and Jackson traps at five per square mile in the remaining delimitation area. Additional traps may be added to further delimit the infestation and to monitor the efficacy of treatments. Both trap types will be serviced on a regular schedule for a period equal to three fly generations beyond the date of the last fly detected.

b. Treatment. Any OFF detections within the original and/or expanded eradication area(s) will be treated according to the following protocol. The male attractant technique will be used to eradicate the adult OFF. A minimum of 600 evenly spaced bait stations of naled/methyl eugenol mixture will be applied to street trees and other inanimate objects in each square mile within the eradication project boundaries. Based on the OFF treatment protocol (nine square miles around each detection site), a total of 17.9 square miles will be treated. Treatments will be repeated at two-week intervals for up to two life cycles beyond the last fly detected (as determined by a life cycle model driven by accumulated day degrees). Foliar sprays may be extended up to a 200 meter radius if trap catches warrant it. Fruit removal will also occur 100 meters around all known larval infested and adjacent properties.

Sensitive Areas

The eradication zone has been examined for threatened or endangered species and mitigation measures will be implemented as needed. The CDFA will not apply pesticides to bodies of water or undeveloped areas of native vegetation. All foliar treatment will be applied to residential properties, common areas within residential development and other non-commercial properties.

Public Notification

Public information concerning the OFF project will consist of press releases to the general public and direct notification of project developments to concerned local and state political representatives and authorities. Press releases are prepared by Department's Public Information Officer and the County Agricultural Commissioner in coordination with the project leader responsible for treatment. Either the County Agricultural Commissioner or the Public Information Officer then serves as the primary contact to the media.

Any resident whose property will be treated following the determination of a breeding population (egg, larvae or mated female) on or near their property will be notified at least 48 hours prior to the scheduled treatment. A breeding population will necessitate an immediate eradication response due to the potential for natural dispersal and infested fruit to be artificially moved out of the area. Following the treatment, completion notices are left with the residents detailing precautions to take and post-harvest intervals applicable to any fruit on the property.

If you have specific questions related to this program, please contact the CDFA Hotline at (800) 491-1899.



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