The California Department of Food and Agriculture is preparing for a treatment program for the Oriental fruit fly in Elk Grove in Sacramento County.

Three Oriental fruit flies have been detected recently in the Laguna West community, in traps routinely operated by the Sacramento County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office. The treatment program will be carried out over approximately 7.3 square miles surrounding the sites where the insects were trapped.

The Oriental fruit fly is known to target over 230 different fruit, vegetable and plant commodities. Damage occurs when the female lays eggs inside the fruit. The eggs hatch into maggots that tunnel through the flesh of the fruit, making it unfit for consumption.

“Fruit flies are a serious threat to California’s crops, and also to our backyard gardens and environment,” said CDFA Secretary A.G. Kawamura. “Fortunately, we have a system in place to detect them quickly and take action before they can cause widespread damage.”

“We urge Californians who travel abroad not to bring back fruits, vegetables, seeds or other prohibited plant material,” Kawamura said. “Every invasive species we can keep out saves our state money, reduces pesticide use and protects our environment and food supply.”

While fruit flies and other pests threaten California’s crops, the vast majority of them are detected in urban and suburban areas. The most common pathway for these pests to enter the state is by “hitchhiking” in fruits and vegetables brought back illegally by travelers as they return from infested regions around the world. The Oriental fruit fly is widespread through much of the mainland of Southern Asia and neighboring islands, including Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Taiwan, Philippine Islands, Ryukyu Islands, Micronesia and the Mariana Islands. It is also found in Hawaii.

Treatment of the Oriental fruit fly primarily relies upon a process known as “male attractant,” in which workers squirt a small patch of fly attractant mixed with a very small dose of pesticide approximately 8-10 feet off the ground to light poles, street trees and similar surfaces. Male flies are attracted to the mixture and die after consuming it.

The treatment is non-intrusive and has repeatedly proven successful over many years. Treatments will be repeated at two-week intervals for two life cycles beyond the last fly find, with a minimum of four applications.

Within a 200-meter radius of the site where the flies were trapped, agricultural officials will also apply an organic-approved pesticide, spinosad, to plants that are considered suitable hosts for this pest.

A detailed map of the treatment area is available online at: http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/phpps/PDEP/treatment/treatment_maps.html.

Residents with questions about the male attractant treatment program may call the department’s Pest Hotline at 1-800-491-1899.