Blueberry crop threatened
November 30, 2012

MONMOUTH, Maine (AP) — Farmers are seeing a sudden increase in the numbers of an invasive fruit fly, potentially bad news for the state's blueberry industry.

The spotted wing drosophila, a native of northern Asia, was first detected in Maine last summer in small numbers. But this summer, traps in Monmouth have bagged thousands per week.

"This could have huge impacts on the wild blueberry industry," David Handley, vegetable and small fruit specialist for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, told the Sun Journal. "This is a game-changer."

Instead of attacking rotten fruit, female spotted wing drosophila cut small holes in ripening fruit to lay eggs. The fruit looks fine to the naked eye for a day or two afterward but quickly becomes inedible. Consumers may cut into a perfectly good-looking fruit, only to find tiny maggots inside, Handley said.

Fighting the insect could cost farmers, who may have to spray pesticides twice a week.

Blueberries are the biggest concern. Maine is the No. 1 wild blueberry state, with 60,000 acres of fields.