May 23, 1998
Medfly Population Remains High in Core
BRADENTON Florida Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford today expressed concern that the Mediterranean fruit fly population is not dropping as rapidly as needed in the outbreak's core area despite intensive ground spraying of bait material, accelerated trapping operations and fruit stripping.
Crawford said that he hopes that both state and federal officials, who are working during the holiday weekend, succeed in dramatically lowering the numbers of medflies in the area in the next few days so that a sterile medfly release can go forward late next week as planned. A scientific advisory panel to the federal/state medfly program has recommended using sterile flies - but only after the wild fly population is reduced significantly.
Just two days ago, 53 flies were trapped in the core area, including 51 in a single trap. Florida and the USDA have ordered some 300 million sterile flies from a USDA-approved facility in Guatemala to use both in Bradenton and on the periphery, or outskirts, of the infestation area to create a preventive buffer zone to protect Hillsborough, Sarasota and other nearby counties from a possible spread.
"We want to do all that we can to see that the outbreak remains confined," Crawford said. "Creating an area wide sterile release zone appears to be our best strategy."
Crawford said he is also troubled by the find yesterday of a lone medfly across the river in Palmetto. Not only does that detection increase the quarantine zone, but it has placed many of the tomato packing plants in the area under quarantine.
Palmetto tomato packing houses expect to pack more than $100 million in tomatoes next week, which is the height of their season.
"I'm very pleased by the cooperation of the industry during this time, and we are doing everything possible to keep operations running as smoothly as we can during the quarantine. We're fortunate that tomatoes picked in the mature green stage are not a host for the medfly and can be packed with minimal restrictions. Our main worry is that with our hot weather, tomatoes ripen quickly, and the very ripe stages are susceptible to the medfly," Crawford said.
He said he is very appreciative of the cooperation extended by Bradenton residents in allowing bait application treatments in their yards as a means of trying to prevent the outbreak from spreading.
In an effort to receive the best advice he can, Crawford said he will again call upon the scientific advisory panel in the next few days for their recommendations given the current status of the infestation.
Crawford said, "We are watching the situation closely and assessing our program day by day."
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