May 14, 1998
Crawford Announces Sterile Medfly Plan
BRADENTON Florida Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford announced today that sterile Mediterranean fruit flies will be released on the periphery of the Medfly infestation here to create a firewall to block the outbreak from spreading.
Crawford said the sterile flies will be purchased from a USDA-approved facility in Guatemala, transported to an existing processing facility at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa and flown by aircraft to the borders of the current infestation area where they will be released.
"We want to do all that we can to ensure that the outbreak remains confined," Crawford said. "We believe that by creating a barrier, or firewall, the rest of the region should remain Medfly-free."
Details on the cost, number of flies that will be ordered and timing of the release are still being worked out, Crawford said. But it is expected that the sterile flies will be released within a few weeks.
Sterile male medflies are considered the most effective biological control when a state or country is hit with an outbreak. They mate with females, who have no offspring and ultimately die after their roughly 30-day life cycle.
Meanwhile, agriculture officials are expected to begin ground spraying, pending approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in the roughly one-square mile area around the original Medfly discovery in Bradenton.
Seven flies were discovered Monday in an orange tree in a yard at 47th Street West on Monday. Inspectors quickly placed about 250 additional traps in the immediate area and detected about 25 more flies yesterday.
If EPA approval is received, officials will ground spray malathion perhaps the most commonly-used household insecticide. The Florida Department of Health has stated that the chemical, as used in eradication programs, poses no significant health risks.
Crawford also urged Bradenton residents to make sure that they do not move any fruit out of their area because of the potential of spreading the outbreak.
Noting that the Medfly is not indigenous to Florida, Crawford stated that the Bradenton infestation undoubtedly was caused by someone bringing fruit into the area from a foreign country. The action is both illegal and potentially catastrophic, he said.
"I'd like to remind Floridians never to bring any fruit into Florida from your travels," Crawford said. "This infestation is just the latest example of what can happen with a casually transported piece of fruit."
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