San Gabriel Valley Area Under Medfly Quarantine


Fruit, vegetables and nuts grown in a 53-square-mile area of the San Gabriel Valley will be quarantined beginning this week, after the discovery of eight Mediterranean fruit flies in a residential Pasadena neighborhood, federal and state agricultural officials said Tuesday.

Agriculture officials said they hope the quarantine--combined with an intensive ground spraying program and the release of sterile Medflies--will confine the infestation to a small area and make aerial spraying of malathion unnecessary.

"Aerial spraying is still an option, but it is the last option," said Larry Hawkins, public affairs director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

At a news conference, Los Angeles Agricultural Commissioner Leon Spaugy said signs will be posted on the major boundaries of the proposed quarantine area and inspectors will be checking the produce of the vendors in the neighborhood.

"We encourage people not to take fruit across town," Spaugy said. "We have been and will continue to go out of our way to meet with the community and let them know what we can do to keep this pest in as small an area as possible."

The quarantine area runs from Angeles National Forest on the north and east to Alhambra, San Gabriel and Temple City on the south. The western border runs along Fair Oaks Avenue and Sage Hill Road in Pasadena and Altadena; the eastern edge is California Avenue in Monrovia.

Spaugy said that although fruit in the affected area is safe to eat, residents should check their back yard vegetable gardens and fruit trees for signs of maggot infestation.

The Medfly is a bane to fruit growers because the female of the species burrows into ripening fruit and can lay as many as 600 eggs in its 30-day life span. Major infestations occurred in Los Angeles County in 1976, 1982 and 1990.

The latest Medfly outbreak was discovered last week during a routine inspection. Agriculture inspectors found one female and two male Medflies in traps placed in an apple tree in the 1100 block of Coronet Street in Pasadena.

Five other flies--four male and one female--were subsequently found in a five-block radius, said Spaugy.

Ground application of malathion began last Thursday and agriculture workers have treated 215 properties in the area. An additional 208 will be sprayed Friday morning.

Additionally, about 30 million sterile Medflies per week are scheduled to be released over a 19-square-mile area beginning Sept. 25. The release will continue through next spring, an official said.

Although spraying is effective on adult Medflies, agriculture officials said the introduction of sterile flies is needed to control the spread of maturing insects, who mate immediately after emerging from their eggs, which hatch underground.

Last October, a 46-square-mile quarantine was imposed on the Koreatown-Country Club area of Los Angeles after the discovery of Medflies. That prohibition is scheduled to end next week because no new fertile flies have been discovered there since last December. There is apparently no connection between the two outbreaks, officials said.

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