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US: Black fig fly discovered on Central & South coasts

A destructive insect pest normally found halfway around the world has now shown up in California, threatening one of its crops. It’s an insect which literally turns the inside of figs into a nest for its young. The discovery of the black fig fly on a Ventura County farm was the first in the state; it was found on a farm in the state was in Ventura County.

The flies were first found in the state this summer, and have now been identified in seven counties, including Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. To a casual observer, they might look like a common  fly. Researchers say because black fig flies aren’t native to the US, there’s a lot we don’t know about them. They are common in places like Greece, and more recently Mexico. It's believed that some of them may have hitchhiked to California with contaminated fruit.

Dr. Houston Wilson is an entomologist at U.C. Riverside, with the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center. His team is helping to lead the way in black fig fly research. Wilson says the flies only attack figs. They prefer fruit which hasn't ripened yet. The adult female deposits her eggs inside of the fruit. The larvae then eat the fruit, which drops to the ground because of the damaged caused. The pupae then drop to the soil, where they remain through the winter. They emerge in the spring as flies, mate, and repeat the cycle.

Figs aren’t a big crop in California, but are an important one. The state is literally America’s home-grown fig basket. 100% of the nation’s dried figs, and 98% of the fresh figs are grown in the state.



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