Worst fruit fly outbreak in five years

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THE Border region has been hit by its worse fruit fly outbreak in five years believed to be the result of unseasonal summer weather.

In the past few weeks, humidity has caused a proliferation of the fruit fly menace in Albury and Wodonga.

Vegetables grown by home gardeners have been decimated with many people opting to pull out all their plants and destroy their fruit.

Monitoring by the local fruit fly association has seen a dramatic increase in the number of fruit fly caught in traps.

The increased number of Queensland fruit fly are also causing major problems for fruit growers at Cobram and Shepparton.

The fruit fly scourge is only a recent phenomenon in the Goulburn Valley.

Victorian Fruit Growers Association president Gary Godwil said it was a big issue last year, but it was worse this year.

Mr Godwil said there was a significant expense involved in controlling the fly with considerable time needed to apply control methods such as baiting.

“It is a big cost to the whole industry, a massive cost. I am baiting every 10 days,” he said.

Spoiled fruit is worth a lot of money and Mr Godwil said it could not even be used for juice.

He said the fruit fly escalated when the Victorian and NSW governments decided some years ago to withdraw funding for control methods.

“We will never get rid of it,” he said.

“I think it is going to be difficult for home gardeners to produce tomatoes in the future.”

Joy Sloan is president of the Border’s Fight the Fruit Fly Association and said vegetables were “being hit big time”.

Ms Sloan said in Nov-ember one or two flies were being found in monitored traps each week.

But in the first week in December, there were 35 found in one trap.

The number dropped off, but had escalated again in recent weeks.

“Traps monitored were averaging 10 flies each week, but with the increased humidity and hot weather combined, traps are now containing 20 to 30 fruit fly daily in some areas,” she said.

“It is now getting too late to attempt to provide control of fruit fly at these high levels and the best approach for home gardeners is to quickly remove all infected fruit from plants including tomatoes, capsicums and eggplant along with a wide range of stone fruits and pears.”

Ms Sloan said before disposing of infected material it should be frozen or microwaved.

She said the last time the fruit fly situation was so bad was in 2009 and 2010.

“We have to get people baiting all year round and use fruit fly netting. That is the only way to guarantee success,” Ms Sloan said.