Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata)

Cape Town - Consumers biting into a juicy peach are unlikely to think about – or even know –- the huge effort that has gone into keeping it free of fruit flies.

Just one part of the battle of keeping this pest at bay is a huge project that raises and releases millions of sterile male fruit flies into the country’s vineyards and orchards.

The wild female fruit flies are unaware of the sterility of the artificially raised males swarming around them, and mate with them. The result? A whole generation of fruit flies is not born.

The project is run by FruitFly Africa, a non-profit company owned by the fruit industry, in partnership with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

For several years FruitFly Africa has been releasing 20 million sterile males a week. From next month this will be increased to 25 million flies a week.

Nando Baard, manager of FruitFly Africa, said one of the biggest threats the fruit fly posed was a loss of export markets. “If importing countries find just one larva they will destroy the whole container of fruit. If that happens (often) enough, they may close the markets. Fruit fly is a big threat and the economic losses can be huge.”

The release of the flies has been extended to the Long Kloof Valley in the Eastern Cape and to the Orange River area in the Northern Cape.

The organisation works with the Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata).

A new species of fruit fly has invaded Africa: the Asian fruit fly (Bactrocera invadens) which spread from Sri Lanka. It is regarded as an extremely serious fruit pest, but is not present in more than 10 countries, including Mozambique and Namibia. – Cape Times