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Exotic fruit fly found in Pinellas; state seeks to limit spread

St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park homeowners are urged to be cautious with fruits and vegetables from their yards.
An oriental fruit fly rests on a leaf at a park in the Philippines in May 2021.
An oriental fruit fly rests on a leaf at a park in the Philippines in May 2021. [ ROUELLE UMALI | Xinhua via ZUMA Press, ZUMAPRESS.com ]
Published Jun. 27|Updated Jun. 27

ST. PETERSBURG — The state is urging people in St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park to be cautious with fruits and vegetables from their yards after exotic flies known to infest produce were discovered here in recent weeks.

Two oriental fruit flies were found in Pinellas County on May 17, according to the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Another few flies were identified June 14, June 16 and this Wednesday.

“The fly infests over 430 different fruits, vegetables and nuts by laying its eggs in the hosts, making them unmarketable,” the state agency said.

Florida’s agriculture office is urging homeowners to not move fresh fruits or vegetables off their properties, and to throw out any fallen produce using two bags, which they should tie shut and put out with regular trash.

Residents in the outlined section of Pinellas County should take precautions with fruits and vegetables in their yards to prevent the spread of Oriental fruit flies, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Residents in the outlined section of Pinellas County should take precautions with fruits and vegetables in their yards to prevent the spread of Oriental fruit flies, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. [ Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services ]

The fruit flies do not pose a danger to people, according to the state.

“There are no health consequences to eating fruit infected with larvae, it would just be unpleasant,” said Holly Hughes, a spokesperson for the agriculture department’s plant industry division.

The agency said it works with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to monitor more than 56,000 fruit fly traps. The goal is to spot flies early and prevent pest problems from snowballing through the farming industry.

Hughes said the flies are not hard to eliminate if found early. It would be difficult for anyone who isn’t an expert to distinguish oriental fruit flies from more common pests, she said.

Oriental fruit flies have been found in Florida before, as recently as August 2021 in Seminole County.

The state is using several treatments, it said, including putting insecticide high on utility poles near where the flies were discovered. Hughes declined to provide the exact locations of those sightings.

Agricultural officials outlined a quarantine zone where people should take precautions, roughly from 150th Avenue N near the St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport south to Gulfport Boulevard.

For more information, visit the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service’s fruit fly website.

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