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HomeNewsCalifornia Moves to Strip All Fruit Trees to Eradicate Invasive Oriental Fruit...

California Moves to Strip All Fruit Trees to Eradicate Invasive Oriental Fruit Fly

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A fruit fly perched on a ripe citrus fruit
Source: Swan Hill City Council

California’s Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is currently on a rampage to rid the state of the Oriental fruit fly. The implication is that all residents living in the Redland area of the state will automatically forfeit all the fruits on their trees. 

According to a recent survey, the automatic forfeiture will affect as many as 2,000 residents. Throughout February, workers from the Department of Food and Agriculture will be going door to door to pick fruits, ripe and unripe, off the private trees of residents. The campaign has already started in San Bernardino County. 

In an official statement informing residents about the fruit forfeiture, California’s DFA clarifies that it is an effort to exterminate the Oriental fruit fly from the state. In the preliminary notice, the DFA instructed residents not to attempt to remove the fruits themselves or move any of the produce away from their properties.

They equally gave specific instructions on fallen fruits. Those will be packed into double plastic bags and placed in their regular garbage bin. None of the fallen fruits should be placed in the recycling bin. 

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The Oriental fruit fly is an invasive species that tends to reproduce and dominate whatever area they occupy. They are easy to identify thanks to their yellow and black stripes, which make them look like small bees. However, there are good reasons why no farming district should allow this fly species. 

When Oriental fruit flies want to reproduce, they lay eggs in fruits, which grow into maggots and make the fruits inedible. If allowed to thrive, oriental fruit flies can render the entire harvest in a region useless. In some farming regions, this may lead to billion-dollar losses. Besides the economic losses, the bad harvest may break major links in the supply chain of farm produce. In some cases, these glitches in the supply chain may take years to restabilize. 

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So, the quarantine campaign of the CDFA is basically a preventive measure to avoid an uncontrollable invasion of the Oriental fruit fly. Unfortunately, this is not the only pest the CDFA has to contend with. However, the Oriental fruit fly sits atop the red list. Some other species of concern are the Mediterranean fruit fly, the Tau fruit fly, and the Queensland fruit fly.

The CDFA’s notice of fruit removal at San Bernardino County went public on January 18, 2024. According to the notice, about 230 vulnerable crops are in that county. However, citrus fruits are the most affected. The fruit removal efforts will span through the entirety of February. The notice also encourages owners of private and commercial orchards to cooperate with CDFA workers, as the removals are in the best interest of locals. 

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The CDFA hosted a town hall meeting in San Bernardino County on January 24. During the meeting, CDFA officials explained the details of the removal project. Likewise, they gave specifics of the areas that the project will cover. 

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The California removal program will not be the first of its kind. Last fall, there was a massive release of sterile Mediterranean fruit flies over Los Angeles. Experts have come to agree that this method effectively reduced the population of that species drastically in LA. 

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