Fighting the Asian Fruit Fly in NH

(NECN: Lauren Collins, Hampton Falls, N.H.) - The blueberries are in glorious bloom at Applecrest Farm in Hampton Falls, N.H.

"It's great. They're wonderful," says one man out picking with his family.  

But growers across the state are on edge, all because of a tiny little insect called the Asian fruit fly.

"We're calling it the Spotted Wing Drosophila, which is the correct name," says Entomologist Alan Eaton of the UNH Cooperative Extension. "It attacks a bunch of fruits, especially berries, but a couple of our tree fruits as well so it's a new threat to our growers."   

The Extension is teaching farmers how to monitor crops and set simple traps made of sweet-smelling bait and red Solo cups.  

"And once the traps collect one of these flies, we go spraying. And that's the only thing you can do is spray," says Peter Wagner, owner of Applecrest Farm. He learned the hard way two years ago when the pest showed up, seemingly overnight.

"First year it showed up in raspberries and we lost the whole crop," he says.  

The pest was first detected on the U.S. mainland in 2008. Within a year, it had made its way to the Canadian border, and by 2011, it was in New Hampshire.  

The Asian fruit fly has been found throughout New England. The bug isn't harmful to humans, but once it gets inside a berry, it lays its eggs and softens the fruit from the inside out, making it unsellable. Last year it caused an estimated $1.5 million in damage.

"We're not known as a big agricultural state with thousands and thousands of acres of (fruits)," says Eaton, "so that's a lot of money for them and a significant chunk of their profits gone last year."  

So far this year, it's under control. Wagner hates that he's got to spray more, but for him, the decision is either spray now, or lose the crop later.  

"This is probably the worst insect in my memory," he says.

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