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January 17, 2022

Combating the fruit fly

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Fruit fly laying egg in orange.
Fruit fly laying egg in orange.

The Queensland fruit fly is here the question is what you can do to help manage and reduce its impact?

Fruit fly is a problem for both gardens at home and commercial growers. If you are getting rotten patches and small white maggots in your fruits and vegetables then you have a fruit fly problem.

‘It is important that steps are taken to minimise the build-up of numbers through good sanitation and Autumn is an excellent time to get rid of waste fruit and vegetables,’ Julie Dart, Senior Local Land Services Officer.

Queensland fruit fly, Bactrocera tryoni. Photo supplied.
Queensland fruit fly, Bactrocera tryoni. Photo supplied.

Queensland fruit fly is a native insect that traditionally lived in rainforests, but has adapted to cultivated fruiting crops. Queensland fruit flies have a very short lifecycle of 28 days in the summer, and can attack crops several times a year.

Female flies ‘sting’ ripening fruit to lay their eggs, the eggs then hatch into maggots which feed on the fruit which then drops to the ground as it becomes rotten. The maggots then bury themselves into the soil to pupate and later emerge as adult flies to mate and the cycle continues.

Julie continued, ‘Unfortunately with our mild subtropical climate, conditions do not get cold enough to kill off enough of the fly population over winter, which leaves crops vulnerable to the pest in early spring.’

What can you do?

Queensland fruit flies attack actively growing fruit, so if you don’t plan to eat it or share it, destroy it and this should be applied year round. Steps can then be taken to protect new crops with protein baiting, cover sprays or exclusion bags.

Don’t forget that some flowering ornamental trees such as crab apples, guavas and loquats also have fruit that is attacked by fruit flies and also need to be managed.

For small amounts of unwanted and fallen fruit, seal it up in a black plastic garbage bag and leave in a sunny spot for a couple of days to cook and kill the maggots. Afterwards, fruit can be put into the Green-waste bin (without the bag), to go into compost.

For large quantities of fruit, such as home and commercial orchards, fruit can be dropped on to the ground and then chopped up with a mower. This will help the fruit waste break down quickly and will also return nutrients to the soil.

Removing unwanted fruit trees or stripping fruits off each year before they can ripen are other options.

‘Doing your bit in the backyard helps our local fruit and vegetable growers use less insect sprays on the fruit and vegetables grown in our region, which is a good outcome for everyone.’ Julie concluded.

For more information contact the North Coast Local Land Services.

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