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For Immediate Release: August 22, 2011
Contact: Lynne Richmond 
(609) 633-2954

(TRENTON) -- New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher today announced that a new pest threat to the state’s fruit industry has been found by entomologists from the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES).

Drosophila suzukii, also known as the “spotted wing drosophila,” was found in a vinegar trap on a blueberry farm in Atlantic County. The findings were confirmed by experts at the United States Department of Agriculture’s Systematic Entomology Laboratory.  

Of the thousands of drosophila species, commonly known as “vinegar flies” or “fruit flies,” approximately 175 types are known to exist in North America.

“Both consumers and growers are accustomed to vinegar flies, the tiny flies normally found with overripe, damaged and dropped fruit,” Secretary Fisher said. “What is different with the spotted wing drosophila is that it can also attack healthy fruit still on the bush or tree.”

Rutgers scientists are tracking populations of the spotted wing drosophila, and are advising growers on the best measures to protect their crops. So far this summer, New Jersey’s blueberry and peach crops have been of high quality and without damage from this tiny pest.

A native of Southeast Asia, Drosophila suzukii, was first confirmed in the United States in California in 2008. Since then, it has been found in Florida, Louisiana, Utah, North Carolina, South Carolina, Michigan, Oregon, and Washington State; and in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, Canada.

“The message to consumers is that, currently, local fruit they find in the marketplace is clean, good tasting and not affected by this new pest,” Secretary Fisher said. “The message to growers is to stay vigilant. And gardeners should remove any overripe or dropped fruit, as timely harvest will help keep populations in backyard gardens from building up rapidly. Composting is not a reliable way to destroy eggs and larvae in fruit.”