Live in Redlands? Prepare to forfeit your homegrown fruit to stop the Oriental fruit fly

Orange trees and palm trees under a partly cloudy sky.
For months now, the California Department of Food and Agriculture has been waging war on the Oriental fruit fly. To prevent the flies from spreading, the department now is preparing to remove fruit from trees on more than 2,000 properties in the Redlands area of San Bernardino County.
(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

In the latest chapter of California’s eternal struggle against harmful fruit flies, residents and business owners in Redlands will soon be forced to forfeit any fruit growing on their property to prevent an infestation from spreading to the rest of the state.

Those within the quarantine area are “asked not to remove fruit from trees themselves and they may not move produce from their property,” according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Fallen fruit at the 2,000 residences in the impacted area should be double-bagged and disposed of in the trash, the agency said in a statement.

A sprawling area in Redlands will be quarantined to prevent the spread of the Oriental fruit fly.
(California Department of Food and Agriculture)

Officials will conduct the fruit removal through February, seeking to avert damage to the state’s agricultural economy that the department says could cost billions if the Oriental fruit fly were left unchecked.

The Oriental fruit fly, which is slightly larger than a housefly at around 8 millimeters long, is generally bright yellow. It has clear wings and a dark “T”-shaped marking on its abdomen, according to the agency.

“The white maggots can be found burrowing through fruit,” according to the CDFA. The adults can move several miles in a day, and females can lay some 1,500 eggs in their lifetime.

The state tries to prevent the flies from entering on fruit brought from places such as Southeast Asia, the Pacific islands and Hawaii. “Fruit from infested countries must be fumigated before it enters the state, but frequently untreated fruit is carried in by the mail and by passengers,” the agency website says.

After the discovery of three invasive Mediterranean fruit flies, agriculture officials rolled out a quarantine order and will drop sterile male flies from the sky to disrupt the insects’ life cycle.

Nov. 3, 2023

The quarantine order is only the latest scare involving invasive fruit flies.

There are at least four quarantine orders across the state related to the Oriental fruit fly, according to the department. They cover a sprawling area in San Bernardino and Riverside counties, some of Rancho Cordova in Sacramento County, the Brentwood area in Contra Costa County and part of Santa Clara.


“Nowhere in the world are fruit fly invasions as frequent, recurrent, persistent, continuous, contiguous, widespread and taxonomically diverse as those that have occurred in California,” UC Davis entomology professor James Carey told The Times in November.

In July, the invasive Tau fruit fly prompted a quarantine in Los Angeles County. Residents of Stevenson Ranch in the Santa Clarita Valley were told not to move fruit off their properties and to double bag any fruit placed in the trash.

After discovery of three Mediterranean fruit flies, or medflies, in October, Los Angeles County officials dropped millions of sterile flies on a 9-square-mile area around Baldwin Hills to prevent an outbreak.

Times staff writer Nathan Solis contributed to this report.