Advertise in Print | Subscriptions
Published April 11, 2012, 02:04 PM

New fruit-eating fly lands in Wisconsin

The list of non-native insects making their way to Wisconsin is growing.

By: By Noah Ovshinsky, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram

The list of non-native insects making their way to Wisconsin is growing. A recent arrival may cause significant damage to fruit crops.

There is a new bug in town. And it loves fruit. It's called the Spotted Wing Drosophila. The small fly hitched a ride to California from East Asia with a layover in Hawaii. It was found on the West coast in 2008. Since then, it's been moving east. And now it's in Wisconsin. Phil Pellitteri is an entomologist at UW- Madison. He says given its behavior in other parts of the country, the fly, which arrived here a little over a year ago, may be here to stay.

"Unfortunately in the states where it has had a year or more experience than we've had, it continues to spread territory,” Pellitteri said. “That's what the fear is. Is whether it gets reestablished each year or we have small pockets that survive the winter and start the problem over again"

The Spotted Wing Drosophila has a taste for berries of all kinds, cherries, and most other fruit commonly grown in the Midwest. Pellitteri says the fly worries farmers and gardeners because it feeds on fruit right before harvest.

"They're not a pest of earlier none-ripened fruit,” he said. “It's when things are getting to their peak is when this particular species is most aggressive."

In the long run, growers may have to rely on plant breeding to control this newest arrival. Pellitteri says changing the texture of fruit may slow the Spotted Wing Drosophila down.

Tags: