Guava Fruit Flies Threaten California's Fruit Industry

By George Kiriyama
|  Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013  |  Updated 8:25 AM PDT
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California agriculture officials are launching an

California agriculture officials are launching an "emergency eradication" in response to guava fruit flies. George Kiriyama reports.

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Sweet, juicy and ready to eat. Oranges have been sprouting from the Zermeno's tree in the front yard for more than 50 years. But now an enemy of all things fruit has moved into their neighborhood - the guava fruit fly.

"We hate to lose it to an insect," George Zermeno said Monday night as he looked at his orange tree. "We have other trees on our property as well that we hate to see infested with it as well. There's high concern here,"

Three guava fruit flies were trapped and caught in the Mayfair neighborhood in San Jose in recent days. They come from South Asia and somehow made it over to the Bay Area.

"The first thing that we did when we caught the very first one was we put out hundreds of traps to really pinpoint and find out how severe the infestation is," said Joseph Deviney, Santa Clara County Agricultural Commissioner.

The guava flies love fruit, laying their eggs on the inside. If left unchecked, there could be tens of thousands of flies flying around in a matter of weeks.

"Foreign countries where we ship our produce to. $43 billion industry moving produce all over the world. A lot of those countries might say halt, stop., I don't want that fly. Don't ship anything to me. And then it would get more complicated for exports," Deviney said.

Santa Clara County agricultural crews will be putting up "bait stations" on all of the trees and utility poles around the Mayfair neighborhood. A sticky, gelatin like insecticide substance will be applied onto the trees and poles about ten feet above the ground. This should attract any guava fly. They will feed on it and die.

For the Zermenos, losing the orange tree would be a big blow. It's been part of the family's life for so many years. 

"It probably would be devastating because I know if this insect attacks the tree, it would go pretty quick. So there's not a whole lot we would be able to do at that point. It would be sad to see that tree go," Zermeno said. 

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