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Help to stop fruit fly outbreak

Queensland fruit fly.

With recent reports of Queensland fruit fly in Castlemaine, Harcourt and Harcourt North, it’s more important than ever to help stop the spread of this pest in our shire.

Wednesday 10 February 2021

With recent reports of Queensland fruit fly in Castlemaine, Harcourt and Harcourt North, it’s more important than ever to help stop the spread of this pest in our shire.

Queensland fruit fly can devastate commercial and backyard fruit and vegetable crops.

Mount Alexander Shire Council and the Harcourt Valley Fruit Fly Action Group are calling for the community to work together to quickly prevent any further spread.

“The good rainfall and mild weather means things couldn’t be better for fruit fly, so it’s important that we act quickly to reduce the spread,” said Terry Willis from Harcourt Valley Fruit Fly Action Group.

“We don’t want it to get a foothold like it has in other areas of the country, where people end up ripping out fruit trees, and not bothering with backyard veggie gardens,” said Mr Willis.

“The most important things that people can do at this time are the three Ps. The first P is for prune – prune your trees so they are a nettable height,” he said.

“P is also for pick up – get your fallen fruit off the ground and pick any fruit that you don’t plan to eat.

“The third P is for protect – protect your fruit and vegies with monitoring traps or incursion netting.”

Monitoring traps are available at local gardening shops. The traps will help you to know if you have fruit fly at your property.

Queensland fruit fly are small brown flies with reddish eyes and yellow markings – there’s a yellow triangle on their back and they have yellow shoulder pads.

It’s also important at this time of year to keep an eye out for grubs or larvae in fruit or vegetables.

“Don’t just put infected fruit in the compost – you need to dispose of it properly by putting it in a bag and leaving in the sun for at least a week. You can also pop them in the freezer,” said Mr Willis.

“Please also be careful when bringing fruit from affected areas. This is an easy way for the pest to spread, and we know there is a lot of fruit fly around the state.”

Here’s what you can do this summer:

• Don’t bring infected fruit into the shire
• Net your vegetable garden, fruit trees or bag individual fruit
• Pick fruit regularly and clean up fallen fruit
• Check tomatoes and fruit for sting marks
• Continue to trap and monitor fruit fly population levels weekly
• Prune trees to a manageable height so you can pick, net and check fruit
• Treat infected fruit by microwaving, freezing or placing the fruit in a sealed black plastic bag and leaving in the sun for at least seven days. The fruit must be disposed of in the rubbish bin, not in the compost.

Keep a look out for Queensland fruit fly:

Queensland fruit fly are very small – about five to eight mm long. They are brown with yellow ‘shoulder pads’ and other markings including a yellow triangle at the base of the mid-section. They have reddish eyes.

The larvae are white or cream and two to nine mm long. They are wedge shaped and plumper at the tail end. A black feeding hook is visible in mature larvae. You may find between two and 20 larvae in the fruit.

The pupae are like a large grain of brown rice and vary in colour from cream to brown.

Infected fruit becomes soft and spongy and may start to rot. You may see sting marks on light coloured fruit. The flies may eat all the fruit and leave the skin.

If you need help to identify Queensland fruit fly you can post questions on the Mount Alexander Fruit Fly Facebook Group or find more information on Council’s website at www.mountalexander.vic.gov.au/FruitFly.

The high risk fruits in summer are stone fruit such as apricots, peaches, nectarines and plums. High risk vegetables are tomatoes, capsicums and chillies.

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