Queensland Fruit Fly
Queensland Fruit Fly Contributed

The small pest having a massive impact on produce

Sometimes the smallest of creatures can pose the biggest threats to produce.

Whether it's a humble backyard garden, a sprawling orchard, or a full-sized farm, Queensland fruit flies don't discriminate in what kind of produce they infest.

Despite its name, the Queensland fruit fly can also be found in New South Wales, Victoria, and even the Northern Territory.

Fruit flies can be active throughout the year, but their numbers increase in Spring, when temperatures are warm and suitable host plants are readily available.

Major outbreaks are most likely to occur between November and May.

At only 6-8 millimetres, Queensland fruit flies are red or brown in colour, with yellow markings and tapered wings giving them a wasp-like appearance.

It isn't the flies themselves that can pose a danger to fruit, but their offspring, as the females lay their eggs in the skin of fruit.

Once they hatch, the maggot-like larvae burrow their way deeper into the fruit, eating as they go, which causes severe damage to the inside of the fruit.

These larvae carry bacteria that aid in the breaking down of the produce, rendering it unsafe for human consumption, and eventually causing it to rot and fall from the plant.

In the right conditions, the flies can grow from egg to adult in the space of a few weeks, and the adult flies can live for months.

If left uncontrolled, a fruit fly population will continue to grow at a rapid rate, destroying entire crops.

Because the damage is occurring deep inside the affected fruit, it can continue to appear healthy on the outside for some time after becoming infested.

The only external signs of fruit fly activity on a fruit are small puncture marks and discolouration left by the females laying their eggs.

Fortunately, there are simple ways to prevent fruit fly populations from growing.

It's important to ensure that fallen fruit isn't left to accumulate under trees, as this promotes the growth of bacteria colonies that the adult flies feed on.

Growers should also regularly inspect their produce for the larvae, which are usually 5-10 mm long, and white or yellow in colour.

There are numerous speciality chemical and biological agents that can be used to target adult flies or developing pupae.

There is also a range of baits and traps designed for use against Queensland fruit flies, which use pheremones to target male or female flies, helping to break the life cycle.

These traps are usually placed in trees and plants being targeted by the flies, but can also be placed elsewhere to draw flies away from the produce.

Early detection is key to detecting and preventing fruit fly infestations, so growers are encouraged to regularly check their produce.

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