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Medfly Releases Ending, but Quarantine Continues

Times Staff Writer

The release of sterile male Mediterranean fruit flies in the San Fernando Valley is expected to end Oct. 4, but a 62-square-mile produce quarantine will remain in effect until at least November, state agriculture officials said Tuesday.

The Medfly devastates many fruits and vegetables by laying its eggs inside the produce. Six wild Medflies were found in the Valley in late July, but none has been found since.

Soon after the first flies were discovered, state, federal and county agricultural agencies sprayed a 16-square-mile area of Northridge and Reseda with the chemical malathion. In early August, officials released the first of more than 300 million sterile flies intended to breed the surviving wild Medflies out of existence.

Officials also imposed the quarantine, which does not allow most home-grown fruits and vegetables to be removed from the area. Authorities stressed Tuesday that the quarantine will remain in effect through October, which is hoped to be the final month of the eradication program.

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The expected Oct. 4 cutoff for release of the sterile flies is another sign that the Medfly eradication program has gone according to plan, said Thomas Palmer, a manager of the program for the state Department of Food and Agriculture.

In another development, authorities seized 56 boxes of mangoes, two boxes of apples, two boxes of grapes and a box of tomatoes in two weekend visits to Dianes Produce in Van Nuys, said Fred Meyer of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The produce stand in the 14500 block of Van Nuys Boulevard was violating quarantine rules by not keeping its produce covered to protect from Medflies that might lay eggs, Meyer said. The stand had been warned three times previously, he said. The confiscated fruit will be fumigated for pest eggs and destroyed, he said.

The confiscation cost the stand more than $200, said Roy De Biaso, a worker there. De Biaso protested that workers have trouble keeping customers from removing mesh over the produce.

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