The Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata or Medfly) is considered the most important agricultural pest in the world. The Medfly has spread throughout the Mediterranean region, southern Europe, the Middle East, Western Australia, South and Central America and Hawaii. The first of numerous U.S. mainland infestations occurred in Florida in 1929. It has been recorded infesting a wide range of commercial and garden fruits, nuts and vegetables, including apple, avocado, bell pepper, citrus, melon, peach, plum and tomato
The Mediterranean fruit fly attacks more than 260 different fruits, flowers, vegetables, and nuts. Thin-skinned, ripe succulent fruits are preferred. Host preferences vary in different regions. Although several species of cucurbits have been recorded as hosts of the medfly, they are considered to be very poor hosts. Some hosts have been recorded as medfly hosts only under laboratory conditions and may not be attacked in the field. Knowledge of the hosts in one country often aids in correctly predicting those which are most likely to be infested in a newly infested country, but what may be a preferred host in one part of the world may be a poor host in another.
In some of the Mediterranean countries, only the earlier varieties of citrus are grown, because the flies develop so rapidly that late season fruits are too heavily infested to be marketable. Some areas have had almost 100% infestation in stone fruits. Harvesting before complete maturity also is practiced in Mediterranean areas generally infested with this fruit fly.
The damage to the crops caused by Medfly mainly results from oviposition in fruit and soft tissues of vegetative plant parts, feeding by the larvae and decomposition of plant tissue by invading secondary microorganisms.
Larval feeding damage in fruits is most destructive. When they attack fully mature fruit, it develops water soaked appearance on them, thus making them undesirable to eat. Young fruits become distorted and usually drop. The larval tunnel provides entry points for bacteria and fungi that cause the fruit to rot. These maggots also attack young seedlings, succulent tap roots, and stems and buds of host plant. In addition to physical damage, Medfly inflicts economic damage due to costs associated with quarantine and monitoring programs, limits on export from fly infested areas, and quarantine treatments of fruit from infested areas.
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The Battle over the Medfly
MARCH 16, 2014
Ceratitis capitata may be better known by its nonscientific name: the Mediterranean fruit fly, or Medfly to its friends. Only the Medfly has no friends, certainly not among fruit and vegetable growers, and certainly not among anyone interested in reasonably priced produce undamaged by these insects, whose eggs, hatched under the skin of, say, a tomato or a peach, develop into larvae that feast on the pulp. California, the nation’s fruit basket, with a $40-billion-a-year agricultural industry, feels especially vulnerable. How that state has handled Medfly scares going back more than three decades is the focus of the latest installment of Retro Report, a series of documentary videos that take a second look at major news stories from the past.
This week’s video returns us to the early 1980s. A severe Medfly infestation had led Jerry Brown — California’s governor then, as he is now again — to authorize widespread aerial spraying of malathion, an insecticide that shattered the fly’s nervous system. Unfortunately, it also shattered the nerves of many Californians, who feared that diffusing this pesticide in the air was unhealthy for children and other living things. They were hardly reassured by officials’ insistence that malathion had little toxicity for humans; it was even being used to kill head lice. Nor were they impressed when a state official named B. T. Collins — speaking of whimsical — drank a glass of diluted malathion in 1981 to demonstrate that it caused no harm beyond perhaps upsetting his stomach a tad. (Mr. Collins died 12 years later at a fairly young age, 52, but of a heart attack, not of malathion-induced complications.)
In September 1982, California officials pronounced themselves lords of the flies, proclaiming victory over the rascals. Their self-congratulatory toasts proved premature, as new infestations erupted in the late 1980s and early 90s. After another campaign to eliminate them, officials declared victory once more. But James R. Carey, an entomologist at the University of California, Davis, suggested even then that Californians should disabuse themselves of the notion that the Medfly and cousins like the Mexican fruit fly were alien invaders thumbing rides into the state in contraband fruit. Rather, he said, they had taken up permanent residence. And in a study issued last summer, Dr. Carey and colleagues reported finding at least five and maybe nine species of the pests across California. But the populations, the researchers said, were relatively small, which meant there was still time to devise new anti-fly strategies.
The preferred method of control today — actually, one that began as far back as the 1980s — is to radioactively sterilize male flies in the laboratory. By the billions each year, the altered males are released into the air, free to have their way with any female flies that may be around. No offspring are produced. Over time, Medfly populations have shrunk.
But they are still around. Yet one does not hear much about them these days. That may be because many Americans are less disturbed by winged pests than they are by certain methods of attempted eradication. Plain and simple, large-scale spraying frightens people, especially if they have small children. That is what really rattled Californians in the 1980s. We are, of course, not including fruit and vegetable farmers in that state, who had every reason to fear economic ruin.
The very word “pesticide” can be toxic. One result is the occasional food scare. America has had its share of them.
In 1959, after traces of a carcinogenic pesticide were found in some supplies of cranberries in Washington and Oregon, panic spread nationwide, around Thanksgiving no less. Cranberry sauce was conspicuously absent from many holiday tables that year. In 1962, Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring” was published, leading to a ban on the pesticide DDT and creating for many a fear that the nation’s entire food supply might be tainted. In the late 1980s, apples became the fear du jour because orchards had been sprayed with the chemical Alar. In more recent years, outbreaks of the deadly West Nile virus had some New Yorkers wondering if they were better off taking their chances with mosquitoes bearing the disease than with pesticide sprayings.
Not everyone, however, believes the nation to be endlessly at risk. Some experts say that anti-pest chemicals are generally used in amounts far too small to harm humans. A federal review of malathion in 2000, for example, found that it posed no threat to people when used properly.
Still, Americans fret. One beneficiary is the organic-food movement. What could be better than natural?
But organic foods are not necessarily free of pesticides, many of which occur in nature. If mishandled, they could kill just as effectively as any lab-engineered product. There is, too, organic food’s relatively high cost; it is beyond the reach of many. And so one argument goes like this: If some people reduce their consumption of healthful fruits and vegetables, whether out of fear of pesticides or an inability to afford organic, are they not doing themselves at least as much potential harm as they would by simply accepting anti-pest chemicals as an inescapable part of modern life?
Debates over such matters seem unlikely to end anytime soon. Even Ceratitis capitata has had its defenders, hard as that may be to believe. The Evening Independent of St. Petersburg, Fla., reported in August 1929 that a play called “The Mediterranean Fruit Fly” was being performed at a local Methodist church. “This humorous little skit,” the newspaper said, “carries the moral that something good comes out of everything, even a Medfly plague.”
In this age of jet transportation, the “medfly” can be transported from one part of the world to some distant place in a matter of hours, which greatly complicates efforts to contain it within its present distribution. Once it is established, eradication efforts may be extremely difficult and expensive. In addition to reduction of crop yield, infested areas have the additional expense of control measures and costly sorting processes for both fresh and processed fruit and also vegetables. Some countries maintain quarantines against the medfly, which could jeopardize some fresh fruit markets if it should be established in Florida.
It has been estimated that if control methods were not used, medfly would infest 100 percent of over 200 fruit and vegetable species. All citrus is especially susceptible in warm winters. Only early maturing varieties of stone fruit or fruit fly tolerant varieties of fruit such as some lemon cultivars and avocados can be grown without insecticide applications.
Thus a method needs to be devised to keep these creature away from infesting the fruits and vegetables. The conventional toxic and hazardous chemicals used for combating the pest problems are inefficient and ineffective.
At C Tech Corporation, we offer a safe and effective solution to deal with these insects. Combirepel™ is a non-toxic, non-hazardous product that primarily repels insects from the application. It is a broad spectrum repellent which works against almost 500 species of pestering bugs thus efficaciously repulse them away from the application. The best feature of this product is that it is environmentally safe and causes no harm to the insect as well as humans and the environment. It is available in masterbatch and lacquer form, and as a liquid solution. To keep these insects at bay, this product can be coated in lacquer form or added in mulches or films. This product work on the mechanism of sustainability and green technology and therefore significant in today’s time and date as ecology salvation has become the prime focus.