Oh, to be a Medfly on the wall when those callers swarm the feds.

THE FLY: For a homeowner, they’re almost as bad as termites. Mediterranean fruit flies recently were spotted by Lawndale residents, who then swarmed federal officials with questions: Will I have to worry about malathion spraying in the coming weeks? Do I need to destroy the apricots in my back yard? Will I start finding maggots in my apples?

As it turns out, the feds were releasing the flies--and they make no secret of it.

Every week, 430 million sterile male Medflies are released throughout the Los Angeles Basin in an effort to eradicate the crop-destroying bugs, said Larry Hawkins, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But because the department releases so many flies, it doesn’t notify residents beforehand, Hawkins said.

The department asks alarmed callers a series of questions to determine whether the insect is sterile or fertile.


“In most cases, it’s one of ours,” Hawkins said. So far, no fertile flies have been found in the South Bay this year.

Sterilized flies, which pose no danger to fruit, help cut down the Medfly population.

“I’d like to see a sterile fly try and lay some eggs,” Hawkins said. “It would defy the laws of biology as we know it.”



SNAKE SITE: Flies may not be a problem in the South Bay, but snakes are.

Palos Verdes Peninsula residents have been warned to look out for rattlesnakes after several were seen recently by Southern California Edison crews working in Rolling Hills. City officials say warm weather is to blame for the early appearance of the snakes, which usually are seen only during summer. The snakes are brown with a diamond-shaped pattern on their backs, a small triangular head and, of course, a rattling tail. They average 3 feet in length.

Residents who see a rattlesnake should leave it alone or contact authorities if it needs to be removed, Rolling Hills City Clerk Craig Nealis said. People should call 911 if someone is bitten.

“Don’t step on one,” said Bob Ballenger, executive assistant with the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control. “Generally speaking, their bites are not fatal to adults, but they are very painful.”


AD ALARM: It sounds ominous: A McDonnell Douglas Corp. advertisement in Saturday’s Times advised residents who live near its Torrance-area plant and three others in Southern California that they are exposed to substances known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.

But it is not a startling revelation. The defense and aerospace giant has been running the ad every three months for three years to comply with Proposition 65, which requires firms to publicly disclose harmful chemical emissions. The company gets about 20 to 30 letters each time it runs the ad, said spokesman David Brown.

The South Bay plant, at Normandie Avenue and 190th Street, emits chrome used in the metal plating of aircraft parts, he said. Not for much longer, though. The plant is due to close by the end of the year and will become a warehouse.



WHEELS OF FORTUNE: Just think of it: “El Segundo, Toy Capital of the Nation.”

The city once was best known for its aerospace firms, but lately toy-making giant Mattel has put it on the map.

The company was the only South Bay firm included in Fortune 500’s list of the nation’s largest industrial companies, due to be published in April. Home to Barbie and Hot Wheels, Mattel ranked 174th, with $2.7 billion in sales, up from 230th last year.

And Mattel should do even better once it completes its merger with Kransco, a San Francisco company that makes the Hula Hoop and Frisbee. The acquisition, announced this week, is expected to put Mattel ahead of Hasbro as the largest U.S. toy maker (Hasbro placed 169th with $2.75 billion in sales).

Three years ago, an El Segundo-based aerospace company made it to the top 50. But Rockwell International, which ranked 45th this year, moved its corporate offices to Seal Beach.


“Everyone wants first-class services . . . They want the city to look like Disneyland. But the federal government is not giving any money to the states, the states aren’t giving any money to the counties and the counties aren’t giving any money to the cities.”


--Outgoing Avalon Mayor Hugh T. (Bud) Smith, on the budget problems that have dominated the local elections in the South Bay.