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Officials React Quickly to Find of Melon Fly

Times Staff Writer

A baby melon fly--apparently new in town by way of Hawaii--has been found in a fruit fly trap in Pasadena, and local agricultural officials are hoping that the crop-destroying pest hasn’t brought along any friends.

Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner Paul Engler said Monday that the female fly was discovered Friday in a trap in a peach tree in the front yard of a Pasadena home.

The melon fly was the first to be trapped in the continental United States since 1956. If she is the forerunner of a melon fly infestation, California’s $1-billion-a-year agricultural economy may be in for some trouble, Engler said.

Unlike its more familiar cousins--the Mexican, Mediterranean and Oriental fruit flies--which do not attack vegetables, the melon fly infests both fruit and vegetables with equal enthusiasm, authorities said.

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Probably From the Islands

The flies are common in Hawaii, and the one found in Pasadena probably originated there and was transported here by ship or plane with fruit or vegetables, Engler said.

Over the weekend, county agricultural workers set 1,000 more traps--baited with a special chemical lure that attracts male melon flies--in an area covering Pasadena, South Pasadena, San Marino, Glendale, Arcadia, El Monte and parts of Los Angeles.

No additional flies have turned up.

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“We’re keeping our fingers crossed that it’s just a single find,” Engler said.

If more are found, sterile flies and chemical bait lure sprayed at ground level may be used to combat them. As a last resort, the insecticide malathion might be sprayed from the air, Engler added.

In the last few years, Los Angeles and other parts of California have at considerable financial cost fought off infestations of the Mediterranean fruit fly, the Oriental fruit fly and the Mexican fruit fly.


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