June 8, 1998
Aerial Treatments Will Hasten Program's Completion
BRADENTON Florida Agriculture Commissioner Bob Crawford said today that limited aerial bait treatments scheduled to begin this week in Manatee County's Medfly eradication program should hasten the program's completion.
With the release of sterile flies, the stripping of host fruit and trapping efforts continuing, officials will apply an aerial treatment of bait spray late Wednesday night over an estimated 40-square-mile area. A second such treatment 7 to 10 days later and possibly a third at the same interval should conclude the bulk of the eradication effort.
"Our goal all along has been to wrap up this program as quickly as possible," Crawford said. "With the progress we have made so far in reducing the Medfly population and releasing sterile flies, two or three aerial treatments should finish the job."
To minimize the inconvenience to citizens as much as possible, officials will use two fixed-wing aircraft, which will begin operations at about 10 at night and finish their job before dawn the next morning.
Authorization for the use of limited aerial treatments to combat the Medfly outbreak came from the EPA following a meeting a week earlier by five of the nation's leading Medfly scientists, who unanimously urged the eradication program to conduct at least two aerial applications of Malathion to eliminate the devastating pest. The Medfly, which is not indigenous to Florida, attacks some 250 host fruits and vegetables, and could devastate Florida's agriculture industry, destroy backyard gardens, and damage bushes and shrubs that provide food and shelter to wildlife.
The panel's recommendation followed 15 days of intensive ground spraying efforts, which did not sufficiently curtail the outbreak.
The centerpiece of the joint state/federal eradication program the release of millions of sterile male Medflies on the periphery of the outbreak to keep the infestation from spreading began eight days ago and is continuing.
State and federal agriculture officials also plan to release sterile flies in Hillsborough and Sarasota counties in the coming weeks in an effort to prevent outbreaks in those areas, as well as in Bradenton when the wild fly population is sufficiently suppressed.
While sterile male Medflies are considered the most effective biological control in the Medfly arsenal, scientists say they are not effective when wild Medfly populations are high. Before they can be released in an area, the area must be largely free of wild flies.
Malathion, the pesticide used in Medfly eradication programs, has been in existence for more than 40 years. It is the most commonly used household pesticide, is widely used in mosquito control, and is available in garden centers, nurseries, and a variety of stores.
The Florida Department of Health has concluded that the amount of and method in which the chemical is used in the Medfly eradication program poses no significant health risk.
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