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Understanding and Controlling an Invasive Fly

Native to Asia, the spotted wing drosophila, a fruit infesting fly, is now causing serious damage to soft fruit crops across North America. First detected in British Columbia in 2009, this pest has become a challenge for berry and cherry growers because it has a wide range of hosts and is difficult to control. Unlike other fruit-infesting flies, which typically lay eggs in damaged fruit, this fly is equipped with a saw-like ovipositor, an appendage that allows it to deposit eggs in intact fruit, causing the fruit to decompose and to be unmarketable. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) scientists have made significant progress in understanding this new invasive pest and are examining new control options as its range expands across Canada.

New insight into the pests’ reproduction enabled the researchers to develop strategies to help growers decide when it is necessary to apply insecticides. Reducing insecticide applications decreases insecticide residues on fruit.

The team also identified plant hosts that serve as seasonal refuge for the pest and two possible biological control agents: a parasitoid that lays its eggs in the pupal stage of the pest, and a fungus that infects and kills the adult pest, thus reducing the pest populations. The scientists will continue to evaluate both the insect pest and the effectiveness of introducing the two biological agents in order to develop a more sustainable suppression strategy.

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