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Medfly Find Prompts Local Alert

July 30, 1998|RENEE TAWA

The discovery of a Mediterranean fruit fly in Lake Forest prompted state agricultural officials on Wednesday to intensify trapping and monitoring programs in a 4.5-mile radius around the peach tree where the crop-destroying pest was trapped.

The female medfly was the first one found in south Orange County in more than a decade, said Mohammed Zubaidy, a state Department of Food and Agriculture entomologist. He declined to specify the neighborhood in which the medfly was discovered during a routine inspection Monday.

As a result, in the next week, hundreds of homeowners in the area will find state agricultural workers at their doors, asking permission to place traps in yards and slice open home-grown fruit to look for larvae.

Also, for the next three months or so, officials will increase the number of traps to as many as 1,700--about double the current number--and hire three full-time workers to monitor the area. Unless they find more medflies, which could indicate an infestation problem, officials have no plans for spraying or other potential eradication treatments.

Typically, medflies turn up in a neighborhood's fruit trees when travelers bring in prohibited fruit or agricultural products from other states or countries. Several medflies, or just one, could bore into a piece of fruit.

Officials have no way of knowing whether the Lake Forest medfly has company without setting more traps.

"It could be the odd one out . . . or there could be more," Zubaidy said.

In a Sacramento laboratory, state analysts will study the DNA of the captured medfly to see if they can determine where it came from, Zubaidy said.

Although the state is in charge of the monitoring program, Orange County officials are also watching the situation, said Steve Hill, a county deputy agricultural commissioner. But he said the presence of a single fruit fly doesn't mean that farmers or homeowners should be alarmed.

"Finding a medfly is not necessarily routine, but for fruit fly finds it's very routine to increase the traps in the general area of the find," Hill said.

Two weeks ago, state officials stepped up their monitoring program in Marin County after finding a female medfly, but discovered no others in the new traps they set.

Medflies have been a persistent threat to California agriculture for more than 20 years.

They attack more than 250 kinds of fruits, nuts and vegetables, sometimes destroying large crops. The pests lay eggs in ripening fruit, causing billions of dollars in lost crops and other expenses.

For questions about medflies or the Lake Forest monitoring program, call (800) 675-2427.

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