Fending Off a Fruit Menace

Extension videos teach you how to trap and identify the spotted wing Drosophila.

Tiny fruit fly gives a giant headache to Oregon's berry and tree fruit growers.
Tiny fruit fly gives a giant headache to Oregon's berry and tree fruit growers.

It’s a pest not much bigger than the head of a pin. But for Oregon farmers, the tiny fruit fly has the potential to take a giant bite out of yields — and profits.

The spotted wing Drosophila has made its way to Oregon from its native Southeast Asia, turning up first in wine grapes late last summer and then invading berries, cherries, plums, peaches and other fruit crops across 13 counties. Willamette Valley growers lost up to 20 percent of their blueberries and raspberries and as much as 80 percent of their late-season peaches.

“This is an insect that, up to last year, had never been seen in the continental United States,” says OSU research entomologist Amy Dreves.

In February, to help head off a crisis in the state’s $500 million tree-fruit and berry industry, the Legislature gave $225,000 to a team of researchers from OSU and the state and national departments of agriculture for monitoring and controlling the fly. Among the team’s tasks are sampling fruits to detect infestations, mapping outbreaks, testing traps, developing natural baits, doing outreach and training growers.

“It is crucial to find infestations of this pest as early as possible, when they can still be treated effectively,” warns Dreves.

People who want to monitor the spotted wing Drosophila in their home gardens can learn how to make a trap and identify the insects through a series of videos produced by Dreves and Tiffany Woods of Extension and Experiment Station Communications.

To support OSU research on crop production, contact the OSU Foundation, 800-354-7281.