Biologists discovered three oriental fruit flies – bactrocera dorsalis – in Hope Ranch traps late last week. That brings the oriental fruit fly count to four in Santa Barbara County since the trapping program began two decades ago. The first, and until now the last, such fly was discovered in the late 1990s. County Agricultural Commissioner William Gillette speculated that the Hope Ranch flies’ larvae entered the county in fruit smuggled here from the tropics. The find triggered an eradication program that began Saturday in a one-and-a-half-square-mile radius around the traps, which brought objections from some residents to the use of toxic pesticides. The California Department of Food and Agriculture is using a chemical called dibrom, embedded in an attractant gel which is applied to telephone polls and tall trees. The gel lures and kills all the male flies – a process called “male annihilation.” To delay eradication for a discussion of less toxic alternatives, according to Gillette, would result in householders applying large quantities of pesticide in their own yards, and a possible quarantine of California produce. A special bacterium on bactrocera dorsalis’s eggs rots fruit as diverse as avocados and bay laurel berries.

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