April 7, 2010
County Agriculture Weights and Measures, along with California Department of Food and Agriculture, began dropping 3.3 million sterile Mediterranean fruit flies by airplane to combat the Medfly in San Diego County. Currently, there are quarantines in Escondido and Bonsall. Officials will be releasing around 10 million Medflies per day and 100 million a week around the county. The campaign is meant to ward off a permanent infestation, which would result in estimated annual losses of $1.3 to $1.8 billion.
A twin-turbine King Airplane flew into Gillespie Field in El Cajon after completing this morning's Medfly drop. Flies are chilled into a “sleep coma” before being released from the plane and then they wake up slowly as they are dropped out of the plane where they usually seek refuge in vegetation before mating with Medfly females. Mating will take place with the sterile Medflies and they will be tricked into thinking they have reproduced. Eventually, the female Medflies will die off.
The release is part of a “Sterile Insect Technique” (SIT) project designed to prevent infestation. The Medfly can infest over 260 types of fruits and vegetables, causing severe impacts on California agricultural exports and backyard gardens.
More information about the Mediterranean fruit fly and local quarantine areas is available on the Department of Agriculture, Weights & Measures Web site.
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