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University of Maine helps combat fruit fly that threatens state’s berry crops

Growers in the state of Maine, who are producing blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, are concerned about the impact of an invasive fruit fly that has made it to the state. Its technical name is the spotted-wing drosophila, and it’s the subject of a new, nationwide $3 million study, funded by the USDA and led by Philip Fanning, an assistant professor of agricultural entomology at the University of Maine.

The little fly has been in Maine since 2011, but this study now aims to properly document the potential damage it can do, and whether a parasite Fanning is developing will be effective in stopping it. Fanning said work with the parasite has already begun, but the $3 million grant, announced on September 26, will allow the study to expand to include organic farmers as well.

Maine has its share of native fruit flies, Fanning said, but this variety comes from southeast Asia, and first made an appearance in the US in California in 2008. Fruit flies damage crops by laying eggs inside fruits such as berries. The drosophila, Fanning said, is stronger, and can penetrate even harder, unripe berries, putting berry growers at an even greater risk.


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