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A new pest in Central Oregon

The spotted wing drosophila has been discovered in Central Oregon


The local growing season may be winding down for the year, but a new pest has emerged that could affect gardeners and fruit producers going forward.

The spotted wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii) was recently identified in the Central Oregon area after first arriving in Oregon in 2009. The invasive pest, which is native to Japan, attacks a wide variety of berries and stone fruits such as plums and peaches.

“It looks a lot like what we call vinegar fruit flies — the ones you get in your kitchen when your fruit is starting to go bad or soft,” said Amy Jo Detweiler, associate professor horticulture faculty with the Oregon State University Extension Service.

However, the spotted wing drosophila presents a greater threat than other fruit flies, because it is attracted to normal, healthy fruit as opposed to fruits that are softening or rotting.

“So, as soon as fruit ripens, it will go in and the female will lay her eggs in the fruit,” Detweiler said. “When the eggs hatch out, the larvae will start feeding on the fruit, and the larvae will cause it to get soft.”

Consequently, the spotted wing drosophila potentially poses a significant threat to fruit producers, which makes control of the pest crucial — even in Crook County. Detweiler noted that Central Oregon is not considered a fruit-producing area, but if the species gains a foothold in the region, it could spread to other areas that rely on fruit production.

“The role the backyard gardeners have is to help us try to protect our Oregon fruit producers,” she said. “It can certainly cause a lot of economic damage if they don’t get managed well.”

To that end, the Oregon State Extension Service has provided some ways to identify the spotted wing drosophila as well as suggestions for controlling their presence.

If someone suspects they have a problem with the insect, one option they suggest is to build a trap using a clear plastic cup and apple cider vinegar.

Once some flies are trapped, the Extension Service recommends holding the trap up to a light to look for characteristics that distinguish the spotted wing drosophila from other fruit flies.

The species is about two to three millimeters long, and the male fly will have a black spot near the leading edge of each wing. The female lacks the black spot, but has a prominent, serrated ovipositor under the abdomen that is used to insert eggs into ripe fruit.

Detweiler added that if someone notices damaged fruit and suspects the spotted wing drosophila is the culprit, they are welcome to bring it to their nearest extension service office to investigate.

She also suggested that people can protect their fruit by covering their plants with a fine mesh cover and make sure that they dispose of any fruit lying on the ground in a sealed bag.

At this time, study of the spotted wing drosophila continues in hopes of developing a plan of attack. Detweiler noted that eradicating the species could be a tall order, so the hope is to at least control further spread of the pest. This is not to say that eliminating the species is impossible, so nobody is ruling that objective out yet, difficult as it might be.

“The goal is to try to get rid of it.”



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  • 22 Oct 2014

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