Invasive oriental fruit flies found in Sacramento, may trigger new quarantine, officials say

Two oriental fruit flies, an invasive species that threatens crops, have been detected near Sacramento’s Meadowview neighborhood and were confirmed Wednesday by the Sacramento County Agricultural Commissioner and state agencies.

County authorities said in a news release Friday they are responding with an “extensive survey,” fruit fly traps placed in concentric circles for several miles around the detection sites. More detections may trigger another quarantine, they reported.

Last year, 16 fruit flies were detected in Sacramento, starting a nine-month quarantine of 123 square miles in the city, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The quarantine ended this June, The Bee reported.

The 8-millimeter yellow bugs can do significant damage to agricultural and natural resources, Interim Commissioner Chris Flores said in Friday’s news release. They target more than 230 types of fruit, vegetables and plants, such as citrus, avocados and tomatoes.

“Damage occurs when the female fruit fly lays her eggs inside the fruit,” according to the release. “The eggs hatch into maggots, which tunnel through the flesh of the fruit, making it unfit for consumption.”

They are widespread mainly in southern Asia, and have invaded portions of Africa and Hawaii. In the U.S., they’re usually found in urban and suburban areas. They do not pose threats to humans, officials say.

Federal, state and county agricultural authorities say they are working year-round to “keep California’s natural environment and food supply plentiful, free and pest-free,” and they urge you to be vigilant as well. “When traveling abroad or mailing packages to California, we urge the public not to bring back or mail fruits, vegetables or meat products as they are pathways for OFF (oriental fruit flies) and other invasive species entering our state,” Flores said.

Before shipping or traveling with food or plants, make sure to check whether they are legal and safe at https://www.dontpackapest.com/. Residents with questions may call the Sacramento County Agricultural Commissioner’s office at 916-875-6603.

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Caroline Ghisolfi, from Stanford University, is a local news reporter for The Sacramento Bee, focusing on breaking news and health care. She grew up in Milan, Italy.